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Renovating, expanding Gilcrease Museum would have cost $17 million more than city had budgeted, analysis shows

The city’s decision to build a new, smaller Gilcrease Museum, rather than renovate and add to the existing structure, was based on two related facts: the building is in bad shape, and rebuilding it to today’s museum standards would cost much more than the city has to spend.

How much more? About $17 million, according to an analysis of the structure done by SmithGroup, the lead architect on the project.

Jame Anderson, cultural practice director with SmithGroup, said the discussion changed from renovation to new construction once the firm’s analysis of existing conditions was completed.

The analysis, she stressed, showed severe problems.

“Originally, the interpretive master plan, they weren’t planning to renovate every single space in the building. But when we conducted our analysis, because of the building envelope, or the facade, because every door and window needed removal and replacement, because all mechanical systems needed replacement, there were some structural issues and so forth and so on,” Anderson said.

“Because the list was so large, eventually, in order to have an up-to-code, museum-quality environment, we were essentially going to have to touch all phases.”

To have done that — plus add 10,000 square feet to the existing 134,000-square-foot structure — would have created a budget problem, she said. The city has $83.6 million, including $10 million in private funding, to spend on the project.

So the decision was made to look at what could be done to develop the project in a way that met the museum’s top priorities while staying within the city’s budget.

Those priorities are increasing gallery space and preserving the collection.

“That deals with the way that story is told in the interpretive galleries, and it deals with the collection spaces, so the care of the collection,” Anderson said. ”… Then everything above that bar is, basically, it’s flexible, and we can work to make sure we are hitting the museum’s and the city’s square footages.”

The new 89,000-square-foot museum won’t be able to accommodate Gilcrease’s “100% wish list,” Anderson acknowledged, but should set it up for the next 50 years by providing flexible spaces and room for growth.

“We can’t build something that then can’t change. Exhibits that you see on Day 1 are not going to be the same exhibits that exist 15 to 20 years from now,” she said.

A critical consideration in SmithGroup’s analysis was that the project is funded primarily with public dollars.

“So we want the constituents in Tulsa to feel like when they go to the Gilcrease again they can see where this money was spent and that the museum has transformed,” she said. “That is the story that is being displayed and the way that the artifacts are displayed, but it’s also that the museum has a new life to it.”

Another important consideration going forward, Anderson said, is to ensure that the new museum is built in such a way as to take advantage of its beautiful surroundings in the Osage County hills.

“It is amazing. It really is amazing. … Such a place of respite,” she said.

Tulsa voters approved $65 million to renovate and expand the museum as part of the 2016 Vision Tulsa sales tax package.

Gilcrease also has $8.6 million in Improve Our Tulsa funding set aside for the project, as well as a $10 million donation from the A.R. and Marylouise Tandy Foundation.

The mayor’s Gilcrease Museum Vision Task Force voted unanimously last month to recommend building a new museum.

The final say went to Mayor G.T. Bynum, who sits on the task force.

The project is expected to take four years to design, engineer and construct.

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Gallery: Original Bob Dylan lyric manuscripts at Gilcrease Museum

Gallery: Original Bob Dylan lyric manuscripts at Gilcrease Museum

Supporters of abolishing abortion rally at Capitol

OKLAHOMA CITY — Thousands seeking to abolish abortion rallied in frigid temperatures Tuesday at the Capitol seeking a vote on a bill they say would end the practice.

Supporters rallied on the south steps, singing “Amazing Grace” and holding signs that read “The Supreme Court is not God” and “Ignore Roe.” The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade legalized the practice.

Supporters want a hearing on Senate Bill 13, by Sen. Joseph Silk, R-Broken Bow, that seeks to end abortion but has been called “fatally flawed” by Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City.

State Sen. Joseph Silk speaks on behalf of Senate Bill 13, which he authored, during an anti-abortion rally at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. Senate Bill 13 would abolish abortion in the state of Oklahoma. CHRIS LANDSBERGER/The Oklahoman

The bill last session did not get a hearing but is still alive.

Treat, who supports ending abortion, has said he didn’t believe the bill would save one life and was more of a secessionist bill.

Russell Hunter, a lobbyist for Free the States, which organized the rally, said his organization is not the same as pro-life groups, which seek to regulate abortion.

“All of the other bills are substitute bills,” Hunter said. “They are regulatory bills. We oppose them. They are pro-life bills. We are not pro-lifers.”

Courts have overturned several bills seeking to place additional restrictions on abortion.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers keep anti-abortion and abortion rights supporters separated during a rally at the Capitol in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. CHRIS LANDSBERGER/The Oklahoman

Hunter said Rose Day attendees come to the Capitol and give lawmakers roses for regulating abortion.

“We are not here to give them flowers,” Hunter said. “We are here to say do your job and we will support you.”

Hunter said it is the conservative, pro-life legislators in power who are keeping abortion legal.

Those attending the rally chanted and joined in prayer that abortion would be abolished.

Julia Bender of Bristow is a piano teacher and is vice chairwoman of the Creek County Republican Party.

“I am here today first out of obedience to God,” she said. “I love Jesus. And I love babies. And I hate the fact they are legally slaughtered in our state. I want God’s blessing on this state, and it is not going to happen while we kill our preborn neighbors.”

A few hundred feet away, those who support a woman’s right to choose abortion gathered, carrying signs that read, “I vote prochoice” and “Reproductive rights sooner rather than later.”


Pro-Choice supporters dressed in handmaid attire walk to the State Capitol past Pro-Life supporters during a rally at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

Some right-to-choose supporters wore costumes referencing “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a Margaret Atwood dystopian novel about a crumbling society suffering a near-zero birth rate in which female breeding slaves are forced to wear red, hooded capes and white bonnets.

Ali Taylor of Arkansas was among those at the event wearing the costume, which they call a symbol of forced pregnancy and birth.

Susan Braselton of Tulsa is a volunteer clinic escort for Tulsa Women’s Clinic, which performs abortions. Braselton was among those advocating for choice.

“I don’t think a bunch of people should pass their religious beliefs onto the women of this state and make it law,” Braselton said.

She said Senate Bill 13 is unconstitutional. Passing a law to abolish abortion does not get rid of abortion, she said.

Silk told the crowd they were part of a historic movement at a pivotal time in history.

“As you guys can tell, the game of incrementalism that we have been playing for 47 years is completely over in Oklahoma,” said Silk, who is running for Congress. “Oklahoma has not passed a bill to abolish abortion yet, but what the movement has already done in just a few short years has taken all the wind out of the sails of the pro-life movement. There is no excitement about incremental bills that do absolutely nothing any more. We have done that in a very, very short, short time.”

A demonstrator displays his anti-abortion sign during a rally in support of Senate Bill 13 that would abolish abortion in the state of Oklahoma at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. CHRIS LANDSBERGER/The Oklahoman

He said the abolition movement has spread “like complete wildfire across the nation.”

Three years ago, Oklahoma was the only state to offer an abolition bill that criminalized abortion as murder and treated unborn children as humans, Silk said. At the end of this year, there will be eight states that have introduced such legislation, Silk said.

Silk said the country was not supposed to win the Revolutionary War, end slavery or stop the Nazi war machine, but it did.

“Now, this generation will end abortion, period,” Silk said.

As the rally drew to a close, news helicopters flew over the stage on the south plaza.

Many went inside the Capitol to lobby lawmakers to hear Senate Bill 13.

Gallery: Bills proposed for 2020's legislative session in Oklahoma

Gallery: Bills proposed for Oklahoma's 2020 legislative session

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Black History Month: Wayman Tisdale

Son of a Tulsa-area preacher, Wayman Tisdale dominated the basketball court first, going from Booker T. Washington High School to the NBA by way of the University of Oklahoma.

After 12 seasons of professional ball, he turned his full attention to his other love: music.

Tisdale became an accomplished jazz musician and bandleader and released multiple albums.

Tisdale died in 2009 at age 44 after a two-year battle with cancer.

Today, his memory is kept alive by the Wayman Tisdale Foundation as well as at the Wayman Tisdale Fine Arts Academy, a Tulsa elementary school renamed in his honor in 2018.

Black History Month: Notable Oklahomans and state history

Black History Month: Notable Oklahomans and state history

Sanders holds narrow lead over Buttigieg in New Hampshire

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Progressive firebrand Bernie Sanders has won New Hampshire’s presidential primary election.

On Tuesday, the Vermont senator seized the first clear victory in the Democratic Party’s chaotic nomination fight despite a late charge from moderate rivals Pete Buttigieg, who finished second, and Amy Klobuchar, who finished third.

Elizabeth Warren finished a distant fourth, while Joe Biden came in fifth. They were on track to finish with zero delegates from the state.

The significance of Sanders’ win was matched only perhaps by the struggle of Biden, who spent most of the last year as the Democratic national front-runner but fled New Hampshire hours before polls closed, anticipating a bad finish.

Addressing supporters Tuesday night, Sanders claimed victory in New Hampshire and pledged that if he becomes the Democratic nominee, he will unite a fractured party to defeat President Donald Trump.

Biden’s disappointment offered new opportunity for dueling Midwestern moderates Klobuchar and Buttigieg.

“So many of you chose to meet a new era of challenge with a new generation of leadership,” Buttigieg said.

Sanders boasted of “a movement from coast to coast ... to defeat the most dangerous president.”

The New Hampshire vote made clear that the early days of the Democratic contest will be a battle largely between two men who are four decades apart in age and are ideological opposites.

Sanders is a leading progressive voice, calling for a substantial government intervention in health care and other sectors of the economy.

Buttigieg has pressed for more incremental changes, giving Americans the option of retaining their private health insurance and making a point of appealing to Republicans and independents who may be dissatisfied with Trump.

Yet Sanders and Buttigieg enter the next phase of the campaign in different political positions.

While Warren made clear she will remain in the race, Sanders, well-financed and with an ardent army of supporters, is quickly becoming the leader of the progressive wing of the party.

Meanwhile, Buttigieg still has moderate rivals to contend with, including Klobuchar, whose standout debate performance led to a late surge in New Hampshire.

Biden promises strength in upcoming South Carolina, while former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg was not on Tuesday’s ballot but looms next month.

Biden, after dismal performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, is staking his candidacy on a strong win Jan. 29 in South Carolina, which is the first state with a substantial black population to weigh in on the Democratic race.

After a chaotic beginning to primary voting last week in Iowa, Democrats hoped New Hampshire would provide clarity in their urgent quest to pick someone to take on Trump in November.

At least two candidates dropped out in the wake of weak finishes Tuesday night: just-the-facts moderate Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and political newcomer Andrew Yang, who attracted a small but loyal following over the past year and was one of just three candidates of color left in the race.

While struggling candidates sought to minimize the latest results, history suggests that the first-in-the-nation primary will have enormous influence shaping the 2020 race. In the modern era, no Democrat has ever become the party’s general election nominee without finishing first or second in New Hampshire.

The action was on the Democratic side, but Trump easily won New Hampshire’s Republican primary. He was facing token opposition from former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.

Warren, among the front-runners for months, offered an optimistic outlook as she faced cheering supporters.

Despite an embarrassing defeat that raised questions about her path forward, Warren vowed to trudge on.

“Our campaign is built for the long haul, and we are just getting started,” she said.

Having already predicted that he would “take a hit” in New Hampshire after a distant fourth-place finish in Iowa, Biden essentially ceded the state.

He was traveling to South Carolina on Tuesday as he bet his candidacy on a strong showing there later this month boosted by support from black voters.

More than a year after Democrats began announcing their presidential candidacies, the party is struggling to coalesce behind a message or a messenger in its desperate quest to defeat Trump.

That raised the stakes of the New Hampshire primary as voters weighed whether candidates were too liberal, too moderate or too inexperienced — vulnerabilities that could play to Trump’s advantage in the fall.

He was not on the ballot, but Bloomberg, a New York billionaire, loomed over the New Hampshire contest as moderates failed to embrace a single alternative to Sanders.

Bloomberg was skipping all four states that vote this month in favor of dozens of delegate-rich contests in March. He’s already devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to the effort.

Sanders and Buttigieg were on track to win the same number of delegates with most of the vote tallied, and Klobuchar a few behind. Warren, Biden and the rest of the field were shut out, failing to reach the 15% threshold needed for delegates.

AP has allocated six delegates each to Sanders and Buttigieg and four to Klobuchar, with eight still to be called. After Iowa and New Hampshire, Buttigieg held a one delegate lead over Sanders with one Iowa delegate yet to be allocated and Buttigieg leading ever so slightly in that contested count. Klobuchar now joins a close knot in a second tier with Warren and Biden, about ten delegates behind the two leaders.

Democrats were closely monitoring how many people showed up for Tuesday’s contest. New Hampshire’s secretary of state predicated record-high turnout, but if that failed to materialize, Democrats would confront the prospect of waning enthusiasm following a relatively weak showing in Iowa last week and Trump’s rising poll numbers.

The political spotlight quickly shifts to Nevada, where Democrats will hold caucuses on Feb. 22. But several candidates, including Warren and Sanders, plan to visit states in the coming days that vote on Super Tuesday, signaling they are in the race for the long haul.

State education department fines Epic $530,000 over administrative spending

OKLAHOMA CITY — Epic One-on-One virtual charter school has been fined $530,527 for exceeding a legal limit on administrative costs.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education will subtract the amount from Epic’s appropriation of state funds.

Epic Superintendent Bart Banfield was notified of the penalty on Jan. 23 in an email from the state Department of Education, as first reported by The Frontier.

“(Epic One-on-One) exceeded the allowable limits on expenditures for these purposes by 5.58%, or $530,527.20,” the email to Banfield stated. “As a result, the OSDE is required to assess a penalty in the amount of $530,527.20, which will be deducted from the District’s next State Aid payment.”

Read the full story online at Oklahoman.com. A subscription may be required.

Epic Charter Schools: A Tulsa World investigation

Epic Charter Schools: A Tulsa World investigation