Editor’s Notebook: Leon boosts Tulsa’s OKPOP, Labor says “enough,” and State of the State broadcast
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Published: 30-Jan-2013

OKLAHOMA CITY -- From an editor’s notebook, rock music writer and singer Leon Russell boosted to the Oklahoma Historical Society’s hopes for a new Museum of Popular Culture in Tulsa, Labor Commissioner Mark Costello says his agency has enough cash to operate this year, and The Oklahoma Network detailed plans to broadcast the start of the 2013 legislative session, including Gov. Mary Fallin's State of the State address. 

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Leon Russell announced Jan. 29 in Tulsa that around 4,500 items relating to his music career have been acquired by the Oklahoma Historical Society. 

In comments sent to CapitolBeatOK, Russell recalled watching touring acts at the Municipal Theater (“the ol’ lady on Brady”), including Jascha Heifetz Clyde McPhatter, Lloyd Price, Chuck Berry, Ruth Brown and Jerry Lee Lewis. 

When Russell went west to seek his fortune, he missed his home state: 

“When I first went to California at the age of 17, there was no home cooking like fried catfish or iced tea to be found anywhere in the state. In later years, Mayor Dewey Bartlett was a partner in the company that designed and built a home and recording studio at my Grand Lake estate. And now the good people of Oklahoma want to build a magnificent museum to honor me and others like me. God is good, amen and amen.”

The collection includes photos, audio recordings, video, record albums, CDs, concert tickets, shirts, posters, magazines, books, articles and other items. It would be housed in the Museum of Pop Culture (OKPOP) the society wants to build in north Tulsa. 

In his career, Russell has worked with the Beatles, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, The Beach Boys, Willie Nelson, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones. In 1976, his song “This Masquerade” won Record of the Year in the Grammy competition. Inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, he recently toured with Elton John.

Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the historical society, said the group was grateful for Russell’s support. 

Attending the event at Hardy Arts Center were a range of advocates, including Bartlett, Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, a Sapulpa Republican; Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage, a Claremore Democrat, Tulsa Councilman Blake Ewing, supporters from the George Kaiser Family Foundation; the Regional Chamber of Commerce; the Brady District Association and other Tulsa leaders.

The OKPOP Museum had support from state leaders during the 2012 legislative session, but legislators were reluctant to approve a bond measure to provide some of the funding for construction. Bank of Oklahoma in Tulsa said it will donate a square city block for the project, if the bond issue is approved at the Capitol. 

This year’s drive for the $42.5 million bond issue kicked off with bipartisan support.

President Pro Temp Bingman said OKPOP would demonstrate “we are a growing, thriving state, not just because of our economic successes, but our cultural ones, as well.” Sen. Burrage contended, “To not build this museum would be to decline an opportunity for economic growth in our state.”

Ken Levit of the Kaiser foundation said the group will commit a $1 million challenge grant for the popular music museum. Mike Neal of the Tulsa Chamber asserted it would create jobs, generating $3.7 million in taxes and fees and other community benefits.

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While state agencies have requested at least $1 billion in total spending hikes for the coming fiscal year, Oklahoma Commissioner of Labor Mark Costello says his agency is doing fine, thank you. 

Saying the state Department of Labor has lowered costs through Information Technology (IT) consolidation, reduced fleet costs, fuel efficiencies and field staff use of new technology.

Concerning the budget discipline at the agency, he reflected, “We at the Department of Labor are getting the job done without asking for more money. In this day and age that is something taxpayers expect.”

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On Feb. 4, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) provide a broadcast “pool” feed of Gov. Mary Fallin’s 2013 State of the State address. 

Broadcast from the chambers of the Oklahoma House of Representatives will begin at 12:30 p.m., with Fallin’s speech starting around 12:40 p.m. The broadcast will last about one hour, officials with “The Oklahoma Network” said. 

You may contact Patrick B. McGuigan at Patrick@capitolbeatok.com and follow us on Twitter: @capitolbeatok.

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