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Mother Road Market celebrates first year, announces four tenants for Shops at Mother Road

Elizabeth Frame Ellison was unsure what to expect when the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, the nonprofit she heads, put about 20 businesses under one roof.

But after one year, she is elated with the result.

“Much of the reason we’re able to share this communal space and our success today is thanks to the incredible merchants at Mother Road Market and the culture that they’ve built,” the chief executive officer at LTFF said Friday at a celebration of the food hall’s first anniversary. “We had grand plans to facilitate discussions between merchants and develop merchant mentor relationships while encouraging cross promotion and collaboration.

“But you know what? These merchants are so awesome they didn’t even need us. They give each other advice. They cheer each other on. They collaborate on menu items. And I’ve even seem them jump in if another member merchant is understaffed.”

That camaraderie led to $7.7 million in overall sales at Mother Road Market, which created 266 jobs and attracted at least half a million visitors in its inaugural year at 1124 S. Lewis Ave. It also has spawned a sister development called the Shops at Mother Road, a $1.5 million project slated to open in the spring at 1102 S. Lewis Ave.

Friday, LTFF announced that they have filled four of the five leases for the Shops.

They are Eleanor’s Bookshop, a children’s and young adult bookstore founded by married Tulsa teachers Kelsey and Matt McAfee; and Oklahoma Distilling Co./Cocktail Co., owned by Hunter Stone Gambill. Staffed by mixologists and sommeliers, it will serve as a bartending supply store and bottle shop with a tasting bar featuring independent spirits and wine from boutique producers.

Also operating in the Shops will be Felizsta and Graham Collective.

Felizsta, owned by husband-wife team of Jason and Lizette Corcoran, combines “feliz” and “fiesta,” translating into “Happy Party.” Felizsta will celebrate Latin American food, design and culture and specialize in authentic Mexican cookies. Graham Collective, owned by Dalton and Makaela Graham, is a wellness and lifestyle shop that focuses on affordable clean beauty, organic skincare and nontoxic living.

At the news conference Friday, Ellison detailed other statistics about Mother Road Market: 19% of the businesses there are owned by minorities and 31% by women. Merchants exceeded their original sales projections by 150%.

Through a composting relationship with Full Sun Composting, Mother Road Market diverted 7,196 pounds of waste from landfills, and through a partnership with Iron Gate and other organizations, the food hall donated more than 200 pounds of extra food. Ellison also said the market plans to enclose the 9,000-square-foot back patio for use year-round. The facility expects to eliminate single-use plastics by November 2020.

“People from all around the world could come to drive down Route 66 and when they got to Tulsa, they’d hop on a highway and go around our city and they would get back on Route 66 later,” Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said. “What I love about Mother Road Market is that in the last year, it has shown a lot of creativity in the food scene in our city.

“I love bringing people from out of town to Mother Road Market. People love this place. … But the thing I think is going to have really historic repercussions for our city thanks to Mother Road Market is that it anchored the revitalization of Route 66 in Tulsa.”

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Mullin '100 percent OK' with Trump request to Ukraine president

MIAMI, Okla. — Second District Congressman Markwayne Mullin said Friday he is “100% OK” with President Donald Trump’s request that the president of Ukraine investigate corruption charges against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

The request is included in a memorandum on a telephone conversation between Trump and Volodymr Zelenskiy released by the White House last month. The memorandum is described as not a word-for-word transcription but very close to a verbatim account.

This was the first of several meetings Mullin has scheduled over the next two weeks with constituents in his district. He has billed them as “impeachment updates.”

Mullin said Trump asked Zelenskiy to look into the Bidens because he believed the Bidens may have done something illegal and not because Trump viewed Joe Biden — the leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee according to most polling — as a political threat.

“You really think Joe Biden has any chance of being president?” Mullin said following a public presentation on impeachment at the Miami Chamber of Commerce.

Asked whether he would have the same response if President Barack Obama had made a similar request involving Trump or 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Mullin said the situations would be different because Biden was vice president at the time of the alleged corruption.

The accusations against the Bidens stem from Hunter Biden’s appointment to the board of directors of a Ukrainian gas company while Joe Biden was vice president.

Published accounts differ on the exact nature of the Bidens’ activities, but Mullin said inside information leads him to believe that Trump was right to ask for Ukraine to investigate further.

The matter is at the heart of the impeachment investigation of Trump. Critics, including most congressional Democrats, say the call amounted to a veiled threat to withhold $400 million in aid to Ukraine if it did not do Trump’s bidding.

Trump’s defenders point out he never explicitly linked compliance with his request to the foreign aid.

The aid, in fact, was withheld for some time, although there is disagreement as to why.

The 25-30 people who came to hear Mullin’s impeachment update Friday were attentive but did not appear unduly worked up about the issue. The most animated discussion dealt with area residents’ disputes with the Grand River Dam Authority and Sen. Jim Inhofe.

In his presentation, Mullin reiterated the Republican position that the Democratic majority is treating Trump and the GOP minority unfairly by limiting access to the investigation’s hearings and testimony.

“What concerns me, and it should concern everybody ... is if they can do this to the president of the United States, our commander and chief, don’t kid yourself that you can’t be railroaded, too,” said Mullin.

As it turns out, Democrats and other Trump critics make a similar argument — that one president using his position to direct investigations against specific individuals enables all future presidents to do the same.

Mullin, though, says Trump was merely trying to get to the bottom of one set of accusations.

Ukraine has been a source of trouble for current and former politicians of all stripes in recent years. Trump’s one-time campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is serving time in federal prison on charges stemming from his activities in that country. Lobbyist Tony Podesta, the brother of Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff, John Podesta, and his associate Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman, became embroiled in a Ukrainian corruption scandal in which they were recently cleared of wrongdoing.

And two associates of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, were recently arrested on charges they funneled foreign money into U.S. elections. The two reportedly have Ukrainian connections and had been involved in trying to find evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens.

Additional meetings scheduled by Mullin include: 9:15 a.m. Tuesday, Connors State College-Muskogee Auditorium, 2501 N. 41st St. E., Muskogee; noon Wednesday, Mid-America Industrial Park Expo Center, 4075 Sanders Mitchell Road, Pryor; 11 a.m. Thursday, 100 John Russell Building, 425 W. University, Southeastern State University, Durant.

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Pardon and Parole Board approves record number of commutations

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board in a historic move on Friday recommended sentence commutations for 527 inmates.

Supporters say it is the largest single-day commutation in state and national history. They say the action will drop the state out of the No. 1 spot in the nation for incarcerations and put it second.

In addition, they say it will save the state an estimated nearly $12 million a year.

Gov. Kevin Stitt was expected to sign the commutations on Friday, paving the way for a mass release of 462 offenders on Monday. Some of those approved Friday have detainers, an authorization to continue to hold a prisoner who might be wanted by federal authorities or for a crime in another state.

The action comes after lawmakers passed and Stitt signed House Bill 1269 to make the provisions of State Question 780 retroactive.

Passed by voters in November 2016, State Question 780 downgraded several nonviolent offenses from felonies to misdemeanors and reduced the associated sentences.

“You know, today we are implementing the will of the people,” Stitt said. “I truly believe that.”

Stitt said the review process was very thorough to ensure those eligible were in line with the intent and will of the people.

“By the end of this year, we are anticipating we will have about 2,000 empty beds in our system,” Stitt said.

Of the 527 offenders, 75% were male and 25% were female. Their average age was 39.7 years old.

The action commutes 1,931 years off of sentences.

Stitt said the Oklahoma Department of Corrections knocked down a major hurdle for offenders leaving prison. The agency was able to assist offenders being released in obtaining a driver’s license or state-issued identification card prior to release.

In addition, reentry fairs were held for offenders about to be released in the next six months, Stitt said. Some 700 offenders met with 200 volunteers in 28 reentry affairs to enroll in programs to help them reintegrate into society, Stitt said.

House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, was one of the authors of the measure making State Question 780 retroactive.

“These are real lives, real people, with real families and with real friends and they get to go home,” Echols said. “And that is a pretty special accomplishment to get to be a part of.”

Another author, Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, said Friday’s action restored hope for so many families and lives.

Kris Steele is executive director of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, a major player in criminal justice reform efforts.

“This is a historic day,” said Steele, who attended the meeting. “So many Oklahomans are going to be able to reenter society, reunite with their families, reenter the workforce and get on with their lives. It is just an incredible moment in time.”

Hundreds of inmates were not recommended for a variety of reasons, such as behavior problems or protests from prosecutors or victims.

Those individuals are still eligible to seek commutation under a two-stage or traditional process.

Steele said his organization will focus on those who were not approved on Friday.

Gallery: Oklahoma holds large single-day commutation