Archive for the ‘Tulsa’ category

Tulsa Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards

April 2, 2008

Mayor Kathy Taylor delivered the inaugural opening of the Tulsa Spirit Award tonight by stating, “We want Tulsa to be the innovation capital of the U.S.”

I totally believe we can do this. I’m a huge champion of Tulsa. Love the city. Love the pace. Love everything about it (including a GREAT cost of living you won’t find ANYWHERE else in America). It’s a really fine place to start a business for a variety of reasons. Geographically centered. Lots of good stuff in the plus column.

There  are some detractors and we have openly begun the discussion of minimizing those or mitigating them in other ways. The cool thing… This is all going to be done in the light of day. Openly. Transparently and with a lot of windows left ajar for all to watch the process. Excited to be an active participant!

[EDIT: There is now a LinkedIn Group for the Tulsa Spirit Awards. Open to all!]

My House on Zillow

March 26, 2008

I love Zillow. Of course, I’d say that sitting in Tulsa while house prices are appreciating as they are and the housing bubble hasn’t quite been realized here. We’re typically the last to see “bubbles” and among the first to recover from them. Unless it’s oil related, but we’re more diversified now than ever. At least, we locals tell ourselves that. Oil and gas prices are definitely helping bouy us locally right now. So, knock on wood we don’t have to put it to the test.

On a lark I’ve listed our house for sale on Zillow. More for giggles than anything. It’s a “Make me move” kind of thing. I have no burning desire to sell or move. But, if someone saw the house, was serious and felt good about some of the renovation work left to be done… I’d sell. Heck, everything’s for sale when it comes right down to it. [EDIT: already moderated some comments about this… I’m not linking to the house for the same reason I don’t blog about my kids or post their pictures – Security. Local house hunters will either find our house and research it like everyone else does. Or not. Gawkers and lurkers I can do without.]

Of course, if it *did* sell… we’d have the unpleasant problem of finding new digs. Michelle’s been keen on building our next house. Undeveloped property prices in Tulsa are, shall we say, a teensy bit out of whack with reality. Oh well. It is what it is. I’d love a log cabin (in the Lake Tahoe style not the Abraham Lincoln style). She’d probably go with that. Of course, Zillow’s going to have to do a hockey stick for us for that to happen. So… maybe a starter Abraham Lincoln style is as close as we get 😛

In Manama, Bahrain (pics)

March 1, 2008

Arrived after sundown last night to a pleasant Bahrain evening.

Have started a .Mac Gallery for the trip so you can keep tabs (link).

A couple of friends in London asked what brought me to the middle-east so frequently (third time in two years). Short answer is my day job. It’s not without side benefits though. If you’ve kept up with the news, there are all manner of VC in Dubai and Manama. I’ve been fortunate to have met a few of them. More fortunate still is the fact most of them have offices stateside.Interestingly enough, I was lunching with the Oklahoma Business Ethics group Thursday listening to David Rutkauskas (owns Camille’s Sidewalk Cafés, HQ in Tulsa) and he mentioned they had sold a master franchise license to an operator in the middle east (Dubai and Bahrain specifically). What are the odds that I’d be looking to support a Tulsa-based restaurant on the other side of the globe?

This old world just keeps getting smaller and smaller. 

Tulsa’s 2008 Battle of the Bands (MP3s)

February 24, 2008

The winner’s been announced. There were some really good up-and-coming Tulsa bands among the finalists. Clickthrough to enjoy some solid music from the newest crop on the Tulsa scene. And, if you happen to be rolling through Tulsa on a Grocio, Google or Vidoop interview… let me know you’re going to stick around for the night and we’ll catch a show.

I’ll throw my bias around a bit (just ’cause I can)… “Here is There” hails from Booker T. Washington high school, which is near and dear to me as a class of ’85 grad and, well, I’m on the BTW Foundation board too. So, despite all that… they’re still REALLY good. Juneaux‘s another BTW band… just not my cuppa.

I’m not even considering The Twenties or Black Sheep Drive. They’re both ready to be signed by someone and it’s not a fair fight. Like pitting Billy the Kid’s gang against Roy Rogers.

Here is There
Caught Between a Door and an Escalator
Counting the Stars Blindfolded
Sinbad (Seven Seconds to Climax)

The runaway best of the amatuer bands though… Big Sleep. A hauntingly professionally finished sound for a band so young.
Corey Feldman (best of the lot and love the song’s title)

Keep Quiet (close second)

Oklahoma Aquarium

February 17, 2008

Oklahoma Aquarium

The Oklahoma Aquarium located just south of Tulsa has really come a long way in the past couple years. There once was a time when I’d say, “Gee, what’s there to do in this town.” No longer! We have the nation’s most popular zoo, the spectacular aquarium, sports teams, lots of night life and a cost of living that can’t be beat.

We took the kids to the aquarium yesterday, bought a family pass for the year and they absolutely LOVE it. The walkthrough shark tank was a massive hit. The jelly fish and sea-horses too. Best of all was the petting tank with the rays and sand sharks. The sea-turtle and otter exhibits should be cool too once they’re completed.

So, if you ever find yourself in Tulsa for, oh a Google interview (no, seriously, their newest data center is here)… make sure you spend some time visiting the local attractions. Tulsa’s a great place to call home.

(PHOTO CREDIT: Gerald Buckley ©2008. All rights reserved.)

Fasting from Blogging, Tweeting…

January 22, 2008

In support of the Franco-Torres family I am fasting from blogging and tweeting. They urgently need your support.

This Family Needs YOUR Help

January 22, 2008

Franco-Torres Family

[EDIT: We’re making a difference Tulsans! Keep it up! See the comments below.] The Franco-Torres family here in Tulsa has been devastatingly ripped apart – all on a technicality. Their situation is dire and they desperately need your help – not tomorrow, not later. RIGHT NOW! Their story is recounted below. Folks, this is where the rubber meets the road. This is life or death and, yes, young kids are involved. Everything else is going to fall into the “interesting” category for a while and take a back seat. We have the chance to do something the politicians stumping for office can’t, don’t or won’t. This isn’t a religious thing. This isn’t a party line. This is a chance to do a really good thing for a specific family spiraling beyond their ability to control. This is an appeal from me to you to apply 100% of anything you can muster to bring an entire family back from the brink. We can do this! (copied and pasted “as is” from the Eastern Oklahoma Catholic newspaper)

Danny Franco-Torres thought he was legal.

He has been granted employment authorization cards for the last six years by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. He has an Oklahoma driver’s license and an Oklahoma non-driver identification card. His name is on the mortgage of his house in east Tulsa. He is married to a U.S.-born citizen, and together they have five chil-dren, all born in Tulsa, where they are parishioners of St. Francis Xavier Church.

Mr. Franco-Torres filed and paid in-come taxes from three dif-ferent jobs over the past 13 years. He sought and believed he had been granted political asylum in 1993 from war-torn El Salvador.

Mr. Franco-Torres was with his children when he was arrested Oct. 14 in his Tulsa home by Im-migration and Customs Enforcement officers, and he was deported Nov. 28.

Left behind is his wife, Raquel, whose problem pregnancy forced her to give up her job as a customer services representative for AT&T and whose precarious health means she cannot yet return to work, one-month-old Johnaythan and the couple’s four older children.

Mrs. Franco-Torres is three months behind on the mortgage and keeps most lights in the house turned off to save on the electricity bills that also are piling up.

“I got rid of all my stuff,” she said, referring to her car, the family television set and other furni-ture. “All I have left is his car, and I don’t want to sell that because if I can get a job I’ll need it,” Mrs. Franco-Torres said Jan. 11.

“I need to find a job more than anything, but the doctors tell me I have to wait.” She also has been diagnosed with pre-cervical cancer.

The Gabri-el Project – a parish-based outreach to pregnant women established by the Family Life Office – is seeking to help the family, said Family Life Office Director Erick Bell.

Meanwhile, her husband is back in El Salvador, where he was born in 1974. The story of how Mr. Franco-Torres came to be deported after years of living legally in this country was patient-ly recounted by his wife.

Granted refugee statusIn 1992, a brutal and bloody 12-year civil war was slowly coming to an end in El Salvador. Government death squads were responsible for more than 75,000 murders. Catholic clergy, nuns and lay people often were targets of the killings that included the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the highly publicized rape and murder in 1980 of three nuns and a Catholic relief worker.

According to Mrs. Franco-Torres, her hus-band worked as a bodyguard for “an important person” in El Salvador, and he received a death threat. Mr. Franco-Torres left on a boat in early 1993 and landed on the eastern coast of Mexico. From there, he walked for two weeks with several other refugees to Laredo, Texas. A few days later he was arrested by INS agents in Houston.

While in custody, Mr. Franco-Torres learned that because of the war, he could apply for political asylum. He filed the paper-work and moved in with a sponsor family in Tulsa.

Her husband’s mistake, Mrs. Franco-Torres said, came when the sponsor family moved to Oklahoma City, and Mr. Franco-Torres stayed in Tulsa. She said he never received the notification of a pending hearing mailed by federal authorities.

The ICE agents who arrested Mr. Franco-Torres in October told him he had missed a 1995 court date pertaining to his immigration status. Mrs. Franco-Torres was told that the creation of ICE in March 2003 provided the immigration service manpower to follow up on old case files. Before then, federal officials simply didn’t have the time.

‘My dad started crying’

After doctors told her to quit her AT& T job, Mrs. Fran-co-Torres earned some extra money translating for local Hispanics and was working at St. John Medical Center when her husband was arrested in October.

Jovany, 8, said the agents allowed his father to call his mother’s sister to come watch the children before Mr. Fran-co-Torres was removed from the home.

“They surrounded the house and then knocked on the door. My dad started crying, and then they told us they had to take him away. Then we started crying,” Jovany said.

Mrs. Franco-Torres said that while the children were waiting for their aunt, 5-year-old Esmeralda packed her clothes and told the officers that she wanted to go with her daddy.

Mrs. Torres’ lawyer has told her that she could file a petition to re-open her husband’s case, but attorneys cost money.

“There’s no way that I have enough money to start the process. I need to work. I know that. I’m just living one day at a time. I have to. I’d go crazy otherwise.”

Plus, efforts to reverse the deportation will be difficult because of another mistake Mrs. Franco-Torres admits she and her husband made. He was arrested in 1996 on a domestic violence complaint.

“That’s why the judge said he would never be allowed back in this country. Early on, we had our problems. He hit me. I hit him. I had him arrested. But we were young and didn’t know what marriage was. That’s all behind us now. He paid his debt for that. He’s a great father and husband now.”

A spokesman for the Tulsa County district attorney’s office said there is no record of the 1996 conviction. Because Mr. Franco-Tor-res admitted his crime, served his time and paid fines, the conviction may have been ex-punged, as sometimes is done to encourage people to live lawfully in the future.

‘Home’ is an aluminum shed

While worrying about her family’s difficulties here, Mrs. Franco-Torres also is distraught about her husband.

“Right now, he’s just walking around (El Salvador) with the clothes on his back.” Mr. Franco-Torres worked briefly pick-ing coffee beans for $5 a day but the coffee harvest is over, and he is looking for odd jobs. Mrs. Franco-Torres says her husband is living in an aluminum shed and has no prospects for permanent work. “The economy is so bad there. It costs about $10 a day just to live. He can only afford to call home about once every two weeks.”

Mr. Franco-Torres is an only child, and his parents are de-ceased. He has no family or friends left in El Salvador and built his life in Tulsa.

“I can’t leave him over there. He’s the base of our family. It’s like me killing him to leave him there.”

.. So, here’s what we can do right now:

1) Cash donations to the family by way of The Diocese of TulsaCatholic Charities’ Project Gabriel (as in the archangel) (918) 585-8167 . BE CERTAIN TO SPECIFY “RAQUEL FRANCO-TORRES” AS BENEFICIARY. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway… I have no connections whatsoever to this family besides being in Tulsa, being a parent with very small children and our mutual humanity. Checks should be made payable to “Diocese of Tulsa” and if you’ll write “Raquel Franco-Torres Assistance” on the memo line of your check it will expedite the assistance. There may be a better method to donate… more on the 24th.

2) If you are an attorney or know of one who specializes in immigration matters. Please, contact Erma Chajecki at Catholic Charities of Tulsa (918) 585-8167. Father Medina at (918) 592-6828.
3) If you know of anyone who can donate a vehicle in good working order. Please contact me and I’ll either put you in touch with someone who can connect you directly to Raquel or act as a first point of contact.

4) If you know ANYONE in San Miguel, El Salvador who can take Danny in while this mess gets worked out would be a huge relief. [Sounds like we have matched Danny up with some assistance locally. More on the 24th.]

5) Erick Bell at the Family Life Office can be reached at (918) 294-1904 extension 140. Bob Gisler (an amazing human being!) who heads up the Stewardship/Giving programs can be reached at the same number. Sit tight… a new development on how best to assist the family is emerging. Should know more the evening of the 23rd or by noon the 24th.

6) Phone Senator Inhofe’s office (918) 748-5111
Phone Representative John Sullivan’s office (918) 749-0014

Finally, I’m a huge proponent of immigration done the “right way” and vocally opposed to those who would skirt around the laws of our land (as vague and convoluted as they can be at times). It is my impression this is not what has happened in this case. Please, as my final appeal to you… do what you can to help.