I leave this morning for home after a wonderful stay at Oklahoma City. As I have written before, I have a particular affection for this beautiful city and its citizens. Indeed, I have been saddened of late with the continued mismanagement of my home city of Chicago where politicians have run the economy into the ground through waste, runaway pension plans, and excessive taxation. The contrast with Oklahoma City is striking. This has always been exceptionally well-run. The city is continuing a long investment and downtown improvement plan which has transformed the city with new parks, buildings, and recreational areas. This has been done without incurring a huge debt by carefully balancing new revenue with new construction. The Olympic-level rowing facility near downtown is an example of the creative planning by the city — a beautiful addition to the riverfront that is making the city a global presence in the sport. The BIDs or business improvement districts have been fueled by an intense civic pride at Oklahoma City that is evident everywhere you turn. Where Chicago is an example of the failure of a political system, Oklahoma City is a model of how a city can marshal its resources, particularly its people, to improve the city.
The success of this city is evident in its memorial. The city came together after the bombing and, in true Oklahoma style, created a massive effort to collectively consider and approve a design for the memorial. The result is in my view the single greatest modern memorial in the United States — a moving and simple space at the site of the former Oklahoma City federal building. This was done without rancor and without debt. It was done as a unified community to express profound sorrow and continued unity.
I have had an incredible time with my hosts from the Oklahoma City Town Hall speaking series. This is an incredible program and the people of this city cannot be more gracious and friendly. Even coming from Virginia (which likes to think of itself as a pretty friendly place), Oklahoma City is incredible in its universal welcoming environment. After a wonderful event at St. Luke’s, I was given a tour of the city and had drinks at the top of the Devon Tower which has an incredible view of the city. We then went to Bricktown for great steak dinner (Oklahomans do not take a backseat on steaks to the Texas). This is an incredibly fun and interesting city — a model for how a city can flourish with the cooperation of civil and business groups.
Here are a few pictures of the city park, Margaret Annis Boys Arboretum, Will Rogers park, and Devon Tower. The pictures start with the gorgeous Skirvin Hotel, one of my favorite hotels in the world. The old elegant hotel has been restored with loving care and remains a grand old lady at the center of the city. It even has a cool old story about being haunted. The service is fantastic and it is a break from the usual cookie cutter chain hotel. Even though owned by Hilton, it has retained its charm and unique character.