News Column

12 for 2012: Okla. People and Events To Watch

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We'll elect a president. We'll have troops returning from overseas. And we'll hold our breath as we await news from American Airlines.

The stage is set for an interesting 2012.

Will President Barack Obama win four more years? We'll find out in November, but there's a big day fast approaching. March 6 is Super Tuesday, and Oklahoma will be among the states with primaries that could winnow a wide-open Republican race to a clear frontrunner.

Will Tulsa's economy endure a devastating blow? American Airlines is going through the restructuring process of its bankruptcy and employs nearly 7,000 in Tulsa. It makes an estimated $6 billion economic impact on the region. Most analysts believe there will be some job losses, but no one is certain yet.

When will the troops return? That's in spring, when the 45th Infantry Brigade brings home about 3,000 Oklahomans deployed in Afghanistan and Kuwait.

There are people to watch, this year, too: A pair of local baseball phenoms embark on million-dollar pro careers. A Miami, Okla., country music, hit-making duo is up for a major award. There is also a new chairman -- make that chairwoman -- of the Tulsa Metro Chamber.

Today we look ahead at 12 issues and people to watch in Tulsa and the state in 2012. We also give you some of the year's notable dates (Is the end of the world coming?) and take a quick look back at 2011.

American Airlines mechanic Jay Potter poses for a potrait as the Transport Workers Union of America Local 514 MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World

American Airlines: Bankruptcy ripples could hurt many

It's a stretch, but maybe not too much of one, to see Tulsa's future in the fate of a little diner on Pine Street just west of Mingo Road.

Just about everyone who works or eats at Christy's Good Food is connected to the American Airlines maintenance facility at Tulsa International Airport. They work there now, or did, or are related to someone who has.

All of them are worried.

"My father worked 43 years for American," said waitress Rebecca Bailey. "Now he's wondering about his pension."

Jay Potter, an American mechanic for almost 24 years, wonders whether he'll have to make a choice between a job and his adopted hometown.

"I don't want to leave," he said as he sipped coffee, "but if it comes down to leaving or going into another line of work, I'd probably leave."

The regulars at Christy's are not the only ones put in jeopardy by American Airlines' November bankruptcy filing. With nearly 7,000 jobs on the line at American's Tulsa maintenance facility, the entire area could be facing one of its greatest single employment losses since the Great Depression.

Certainly it's the largest since Williams' financial crisis of a decade ago. Williams eliminated more than 5,000 jobs then.

Coincidentally or not, the number of jobs in Tulsa has never fully recovered. From a high of 442,000 in July 2001, the Tulsa Metropolitan Statistical Area's employment stood at 406,500 in October -- an improvement, it should be noted, from 399,000 in January.

No one knows how the bankruptcy will ultimately affect American's Tulsa employees. Most observers say jobs or wages and benefits, or both, will be lost.

American's current employees aren't the only ones in immediate danger. Industry insiders says retirees could lose as much as $1 billion in pension benefits.

Potter is one of four brothers who became aircraft mechanics under the influence of their father, an Alaska bush pilot. Jay Potter came to Tulsa in the 1980s to attend Spartan School of Aeronautics. He married a local woman, raised three children, and on Dec. 1 adopted three more.

His seniority and training make him less vulnerable than many others, but he says he's concerned with a general trend in Tulsa and throughout the country of disappearing middle-class jobs.

In the 1990s, Potter said, he earned enough as a mechanic for his wife, Lisa Potter, to stay home with their children. In 2003, when the Transport Workers and other American unions accepted 17.5 percent pay cuts and the virtual elimination of overtime, his wife went to work full time.

The Tulsa Metro Chamber puts American's total economic impact on the area at $6 billion annually and says every American job supports 2.6 others elsewhere in the community.

Financial institutions holding mortgages and car loans could be affected by wage cuts, let alone layoffs or dislocations.

So could the area's fragile real estate market.

Potter noted that "those 7,000 American employees represent 7,000 families buying gas at QuikTrip, eating lunch at Christy's and shopping at Target."

"For every job at American is an entrepreneur, a vendor or a supplier, and that goes several layers deep," he said.

"The fallout from this bankruptcy could be tremendous."

- RANDY KREHBIEL, World Staff Writer

Trash Service: Details on city trash plan to keep coming

Arguably the single biggest issue that will affect all Tulsans this year is the July 1 switch to a very different, more progressive trash system.

The trash board, formally known as the Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy, is planning to move the entire city from an unlimited throwaway program to a volume-based service.

Essentially, residents will pay for what they discard.

Each household will be issued two carts: one for trash and one for recycling. Recycling will not be mandatory but will be included in the cost. To throw away more will cost extra.

The base collection will be once a week, with an option to upgrade to twice-a-week service for an added fee. Green waste, such as lawn clippings and leaves, and bulky waste will be picked up through separate programs and involve other charges.

But as the New Year begins, several hurdles remain for the board to get the new program in place by summer.

It still must get City Council approval to go into debt by $17 million to front the cost of the carts. The revenue bond would be repaid through customer cart fees.

The board also hasn't chosen the winning bidder for the trash and recycling hauling contract or set rates. A Tulsa County judge has issued a temporary restraining order until Jan. 23 as a result of a lawsuit, which was filed by one of the bidders, Tulsa Refuse Inc.

- BRIAN BARBER, World Staff Writer

Oklahoma National Guard: 45th's troops heading home soon

After one of the deadliest and largest deployments in Oklahoma National Guard history, members of the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team will come home this spring.

More than 3,200 Oklahomans will return from Afghanistan and Kuwait starting in March.

About 2,200 of them were deployed in June and July to Afghanistan, working to secure the country in one of its most volatile regions along the Pakistani border.

The 179th Infantry Regiment of Stillwater, the 279th Infantry Regiment of Tulsa and the 700th Support Battalion of Oklahoma City have been supporting combat operations in the east-central region of Afghanistan. At the last moment, members of the 180th Cavalry of Durant and 160th Field Artillery of Chandler were deployed to Kuwait to assist with supply routes in the region and base security.

Oklahoma Guard soldiers there took part in the December withdrawal of the last U.S. soldiers from Iraq and were part of the surge of forces in Afghanistan that attempted to quell some of the violence in that country.

During the past several months, soldiers have made strides in Afghanistan, including making some areas more accessible to the Afghan government. But those victories were hard won.

Since July 29, 14 Oklahoma National Guard soldiers have been killed -- all of them in Afghanistan's Laghman and Patkia provinces.

- JERRY WOFFORD, World Staff Writer

City Council and Mayor Dewey Bartlett: Holding breath on productivity at City Hall

Everyone is watching to see whether political productivity can exist within Tulsa's City Hall, and if not, what will be the issue or the event that cracks it.

With election politics nearing for a third of the council seats up this fall, a controversial switch in trash service and other issues that inevitably will arise, the opportunities for lively discussions, close votes and political posturing will be plenty.

Council Chairman G.T. Bynum and Mayor Dewey Bartlett say this year should bring cooperation, but they agree it will have its share of disagreements.

But, they say, there is a big difference between energetic debates and fights filled with personal attacks.

"We all get that," said Bartlett, who is up for re-election in 2013.

Bynum notes that the city has a mayor and nine councilors all with their own life experiences and viewpoints.

Then add the upcoming election politics for candidates who will vie for council District 1, 4 and 7 seats. A couple of years ago, voters approved a measure that created three-year staggered council terms resulting in three of the nine councilors being up for election every year.

In November, voters reversed that measure, returning to the two-year terms with all councilors up for election at once; but the new measure isn't effective until 2014.

- P.J. LASSEK, World Staff Writer

Shane Fernandez: Mosaic behind diversity push

Poised to begin its first full year in 2012, Mosaic is ultimately concerned with Tulsa's ability to compete in the global marketplace, says Shane Fernandez, chairman of the new Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce program, which promotes diversity in the business community.

Essentially a new and improved version of the chamber's former Minority Business Council, Mosaic was officially introduced in October, he said.

The goal, Fernandez said, is to encourage businesses to be "more aware and sensitive to the fact that Tulsa, and the state at large, are becoming increasingly diverse when it comes to age, race, disabilities, religious beliefs and sexual orientation."

Being open and tolerant toward differences will, in turn, help the city attract and retain the kind of work force talent it needs to be competitive, he said.

Concerning the recent flap over comments made by Sen. Jim Inhofe in a chamber speech about the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Fernandez said last week that he hopes some good will come from the controversy.

"I hope people will be more cognizant that Tulsa is a diverse community with varying perspectives and that they expect tolerance and attention to change."

"To clarify, diversity doesn't mean you have to agree with differing opinions and perspectives," he added.

Allowing everyone a seat at the table, however, does "lead to the most creative discussions."

- TIM STANLEY, World Staff Writer

Thompson Square: Breakout duo rock country radio

Thompson Square isn't a place. It's a space inhabited by a husband and wife duo who have created a contemporary blend of smooth country and raucous rock 'n' roll.

Thompson Square quickly became music's biggest "breakout" act of 2011. Featuring Miami, Okla., native Keifer Thompson and his wife, Shawna Thompson, Thompson Square released the most-played song on country radio in 2011, according to Mediabase.

That tune, "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not," unleashed a tidal wave of acclaim in 2011. It's earned them 14 award recommendations this year, including two Grammy nominations. More about those potential Grammys will be known in 2012 with the awards show Feb. 12.

The couple won three American Country Awards in 2011: Single by a Duo/Group, Single by a Breakthrough Artist and Music Video by a New Artist, all for that one song.

Thompson Square also released two other singles, "Let's Fight" and "I Got You," along with their self-titled debut.

The pair met at a singing competition in Nashville, and their chemistry quickly pulled them together. The two were solo artists before forming Thompson Square.

They will make an Oklahoma homecoming at Tulsa's BOK Center on Jan. 27 when they open for Lady Antebellum's "Own the Night" tour. Darius Rucker also will perform. For information on the show, go to

For more:

- JENNIFER CHANCELLOR, World Scene Writer

Broken Arrow's Archie Bradley (left) and Owasso's Dylan Bundy each agreed to multimillion-dollar baseball contracts after being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks and Baltimore Orioles, respectively, last year. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World

Baseball: Big-league hopes for Bradley and Bundy

Owasso's Dylan Bundy and Broken Arrow's Archie Bradley have big bucks in their pockets and high hopes of making it in professional baseball.

Friends and frequent baseball rivals since they were 8, the right-handed pitching phenoms brought national attention to Oklahoma high school baseball last spring.

Now they're facing their first full pro seasons after becoming instant millionaires in August. Bundy agreed to a five-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles. He's guaranteed $6.25 million and could receive up to $8.7 million if he fulfills his contract incentives, which include reaching the major leagues in his rookie season. Bradley signed a five-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He will receive a $5 million signing bonus.

Baseball America rates Bundy as the Orioles' No. 1 prospect for 2012 and Bradley as the D-backs' No. 2 prospect.

In June, they went fourth (Bundy) and seventh (Bradley) in the major league draft, the first Oklahoma pair chosen in the first round directly from the high school ranks since 1973. Both will probably start in the low minor leagues, although Bundy's contract guarantees he will start training camp with the major league team.

Bradley made his pro debut in September with a pair of one-inning stints for Missoula of the Pioneer League. In one appearance, he struck out all three men he faced.

- MIKE BROWN, World Sports Writer

TPS Deputy Superintendent Millard House II. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World

Millard House II: Educator has classroom in mind

In just three years at the central office, Millard House II has become an influential force for reform in Tulsa Public Schools.

The 39-year-old recently was named deputy superintendent after overseeing the implementation of the sweeping closure and consolidation initiative known as Project Schoolhouse. Fourteen school buildings were shuttered, and a host of others got new grade configurations, requiring the careful inventory and redistribution of thousands of students and property assets.

House also served on the five-person team that had to figure out how to slash $15 million from the district's 2011 budget. What drives him professionally, though, is making sense of what happens inside the classroom, not balancing dollars and cents.

The son of two longtime Tulsa educators, House had instilled in him from a young age the meaning of a quality education.

"I believe education is at the core of social justice and ensuring that all students are educated at a high level," he said.

"I have been disheartened over the years to see so many of my friends and family members fall to the social injustice of being miseducated or educated at a poor and unacceptable level."

During his first stint with TPS, House led Anderson Elementary School from low-performing to high-performing status. He left to found KIPP Tulsa College Preparatory School and returned to the district in 2008.

- ANDREA EGER, World Staff Writer

State Superintendent Janet Barresi.

Department of Education Superintendent Janet Barresi: Looking forward to reform

At the end of a sometimes tumultuous year at the helm of the state Department of Education, Superintendent Janet Barresi is still excited about the prospect of improving public education in Oklahoma.

"I remain focused on the children in this state," she said. "We have completely reorganized the department, and we are continuing to work toward making sure we are more of a service organization and not a regulatory agency.

The year 2012, she says, will be the year of implementing reforms enacted by the state Legislature. That includes ending social promotion after the third grade for children who are not reading proficiently at grade level; and using an "A" to "F" grading system on individual schools and districts to more accurately identify schools that most need the state's assistance and intervention.

"This is not about nibbling around the edges. This is about really implementing these reforms ... and giving (teachers) the support they need," Barresi said.

She is looking forward to getting word in January about Oklahoma's request for a federal No Child Left Behind Law waiver. If approved, the state's school districts would see relief from the mandate that all schools show that 100 percent of their students are at grade level in reading and math by 2014.

Most educators agree that the law unfairly depicts a school as failing when it is not, mostly because test scores from special education students, English language learners and others are included in the mix.

"That's going to be a big part of the vehicle that's going to allow classroom teachers, principals and superintendents to focus on each individual child," she said.

To read an overview of Oklahoma's waiver request, go to

- KIM ARCHER, World Staff Writer

Oklahoma will vote in the March 6 presidential primary.

Republican Presidential Primary: State part of Super Tuesday

The great American elephant hunt comes to Oklahoma on March 6.

The state is part of the Super Tuesday primary that pits Republican presidential candidates against each other in 10 states.

State Republican Party Chairman Matt Pinnell said he expects the field of candidates to winnow a bit by primary day, but two or three top-tier candidates should still be in the running when Oklahomans get their chance.

Early polling suggests a competitive race.

A Nov. 17 to Dec. 16 survey of 400 Oklahoma Republicans showed Newt Gingrich leading with 33 percent of the vote. Mitt Romney had 14 percent. No other candidate was above single digits, and almost a quarter of the surveyed voters said they didn't know whom they favored or didn't want to say.

Pinnell said he suspects that most Oklahomans -- and most Americans -- haven't made up their minds yet.

Presidential primary campaigning in Oklahoma is likely to be low-key: not much advertising, no stadium-filling election day rallies. Bigger states are likely to hog the spotlight and the candidates' time.

But candidates are coming through the state -- primarily to raise money, Pinnell said.

While here, they are listening to state leaders and paying attention to Oklahoma's take on key issues, he said.

Republicans registered for the Oklahoma ballot are: Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman.

Although President Barack Obama's renomination isn't in doubt, four other Democrats filed for that party's primary, which is set for the same day.

- WAYNE GREENE, World Senior Writer

Becky Frank: She plans to build on success

The last few years have been good ones for the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce, and new Board of Directors Chairwoman Becky J. Frank said she wants to build on that success in 2012.

Frank pointed out some of the past year's achievements, including starting the Mosaic program, which aims to promote diversity and inclusion in the business community, as well as the compact formed between the Tulsa chamber and five other area chambers of commerce to collaborate on regional economic growth.

"It was real monumental to us," said Frank, CEO of Schnake Turnbo Frank PR. "Now as we look to 2012, how are we going to capitalize on what we've learned from these communities?"

Having a new City Council working with the Mayor's Office and chamber can only make things better, she said.

"No doubt about it, it's an exciting opportunity," Frank said.

She's also one of only three women who have held the top position at the chamber. The others were Paula Marshall-Chapman, CEO of Bama Cos., and Barbara Gardner, MetLife vice president.

"I'm certainly honored. It's a real privilege for me. I'm humbled by it," she said. "I just want to be one of many women and minorities to take this position in Tulsa."

Working in public relations and with so many Tulsa-based clients has also been an advantage for her, Frank said.

"It gives you an insight into what's going on in the community. You really have your finger on the pulse of the community," she said. "What an incredibly exciting time it is for the Tulsa region. All of these things that have been going on, we all need to be forward thinking."

- SARA PLUMMER, World Staff Writer

The University of Tulsa is seeking a president.

New University of Tulsa President: Target for new leader April

It's too late for basketball and too early for football, but an important college championship will be decided in April anyway.

That's the month the University of Tulsa has targeted for naming its 18th president.

TU President Steadman Upham announced in April that he would retire in 2012.

Presidential Search Committee Chairman Duane Wilson said the 16-member panel started soliciting nominees in the fall and that there has been no shortage of strong candidates.

"We believe because of the progress we've made at TU, we've been able to attract a lot of attention," Wilson said.

The committee will start evaluating the nominees early this year. The finalists should be lined up in February or March.

While TU has a history of traditional academics in its top leadership post, Wilson said the panel won't be afraid to think creatively about the future.

"We're committed to finding the best leader we can for the University of Tulsa," he said.

The next president's biggest challenge will be continuing the school's recent success, he added.

TU was ranked 93rd among national doctoral universities in U.S. News and World Report's 2011 edition of America's Best Colleges.

In June, the school completed a comprehensive fundraising campaign that brought in more than $698 million. The five-year campaign created 47 endowed faculty positions, brought in $120 million in new scholarship endowments and transformed the physical campus.

"We're quite proud of the significant progress that we've made over the past decade," Wilson said.

- WAYNE GREENE, World Senior Writer

12 DATES FOR 2012

The Tulsa Drillers' home opener is April 12. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World file

Here are a few important dates coming up this year:

Feb. 5: Super Bowl Sunday

March 6: Oklahoma presidential primary

April 8: Easter Sunday

April 12: Tulsa Drillers home opener

Spring: Return of 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team

May 17: Tulsa International Mayfest begins (runs through May 20)

June 26: State primary elections

July 14: Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday

Sept. 27: Tulsa State Fair begins (runs through Oct. 7)

Nov. 4: Will Rogers' birthday

Nov. 6: General election

Dec. 21: Mayan calendar ends

Some believe the Mayans predicted the world would end in 2012. Associated Press

Anything and nothing at all could happen on Dec. 21

Something big is going to happen on Dec. 21.

We're just not sure what.

Dec. 21 is the end of a 5,125-year cycle popularly known as the Mayan calendar. More properly called the Meso-American Long Count Calendar and developed in pre-Columbian Central America, it represents a unit of time called a b'ak'tun.

The scholarly consensus seems to be that ancient Mayans, were they still around, might find the end of a b'ak'tun well worth celebrating but would otherwise not be terribly concerned.

That has not prevented predictions that include an "alien entrainment," the Earth's collision with a phantom planet, magnetic storms, the return of the god Quetzalcoatl, mass extinctions, and the planet being torn apart by a "galactic alignment."

Some, though, have more or less recycled the Age of Aquarius mantra and foretell a new era of peace and enlightenment.

So take your pick: Armageddon or Utopia. Anything could happen on Dec. 21.

And probably won't.

-- RANDY KREHBIEL, World Staff Writer

Readers weigh in on events and movements to watch in 2012

Online readers at tulsaworld. com suggested the following stories to watch in 2012:

"In no particular order:

1. The growing influence of the Occupy movement

2. The economy

3. The 2012 Presidential election

4. The continuing revitalization of Tulsa's downtown

5. The effects of corporate cash on our government

6. The growing poverty rate in the United States

7. Nonprofits being squeezed by decreased governmental grants, decreased contributions and increased demand for services

8. The extremist elements of the Religious "Right" being further discredited and exposed for their racist tendencies

9. City Council Chairman G. T. Bynum

10. Changes in Tulsa Public Schools

11. The Tulsa Symphony Orchestra -- success in a new model of orchestral governance, continues to run in the black while other orchestras are cutting back and even closing

12. Tulsa's neighborhoods and the growing vitality of neighborhood associations ..."

-- M2VIOLIN

"100th birthday of Woody Guthrie"

-- CHAINSAW

"Is 12/21/12 really the very last day of life as we know it?"

-- CLANJOYWALKSIG

Tahaie

ONE YEAR LATER ...

A year ago, the Tulsa World introduced five people to watch in 2011. All five remain active in state and community affairs, four in more or less the same positions. Here's a look back:

- Preston Doerflinger made the biggest change. A political newcomer when elected city auditor in late 2009, the Tulsa Republican was appointed director of state finance by Gov. Mary Fallin in February 2011. He also serves on Fallin's Cabinet as secretary of finance and revenue.

- Mana Tahaie continues her work for racial and social justice through the YWCA, the United Campus Ministry at the University of Tulsa and Oklahomans for Equality.

- Roberta Preston recently completed her first year as chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma, which covers 30 counties.

- David Blatt, director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, remains one of the most respected voices for low-income Oklahomans. The institute added its first two full-time staffers in 2011.

- Denise Northrup continues in her role as Gov. Fallin's chief of staff, a position that essentially makes her gatekeeper to the state's highest office.

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