My new friend Angie and I are walking past the library downtown, watching as the red steel elevators carry workers up the side of the Devon World Headquarters downtown. “Shit man, shit, I got vertigo, can’t do that shit, man!” she says. The Crystal Bridge puts on an LED light show in the distance, and behind us happy arts patrons file out of the art museum’s thursday night movie. Angie is homeless, she rode here from Phoenix on a train. She’s a teen runaway, but she looks older than I do.
“It’s rough, out there, y’all don’t even know” she says. I can see the track marks on her arm.
“How’s OKC treating you?”
“Nice people, man. I like it here. I got a cousin in Dallas, but I might stay here. I don’t know. I don’t think they want to see me.”
“There’s a shelter down the way…City Rescue Mission. They might be able to help you.”
“Yeah, yeah, for sure.”
I give her a five and go on my way. Above me the cranes still whirr.
It’s a strange time in OKC.
Measured against the construction cranes and new boutiques, it was a great year for our city. We were the next great basketball town, the future riyadh of natural gas and wind energy, the secretly cool Austin in waiting.
Perhaps it is my natural okie fatalism; I can’t trust good news. I fear that in our preoccupation with the good things that have happened here, and there are many, we may lose sight of potentially dangerous, even fatal, issues that we will have to face in the future.
Our infrastructure is still falling apart. I’m happy that the new I-40 is finally complete, but what about the rest of our roads and bridges? What about mass transit? What about the streetcar system and the Fixed Guideway Study?
How can we extend the “renaissance” of central and northwest OKC to the south side and the east side? How can we bring the suburbs and regional cities into the sort of cooperative relationship we need to build on our momentum?
What do we have to do to ensure a healthier, happier, better educated, city in the future?
2011 saw a heartening repudiation of far right candidates for city council and the election of a legitimate progressive in Ward 2, but Oklahoma remains, on the whole, a reactionary place, and one of our brightest lights, State Senator Andrew Rice, is leaving the state. Who will stand up and take the torch?
Our trajectory, as a city and a community, is good; I just hope we don’t hit anything solid on the way to our destination.
The pendelum swings left and right, forward and backward. This is my home, and I will be here through it all, but I hope that what awaits us in the coming years is thoughtful, sincere, and forward looking.
* * *
OKC.NET is seemingly on the same trajectory. I have the odd feeling of impending awesomeness; it’s analogous to the feeling of impending doom that I have most of the time, but more optomistic. More than one person has told me that we should be much farther along than we are; I think most of those people are imagining a world in which we have much greater resources for promotion and development. I am woefully unprepared to take on a project of this magnitude, but far less so now than 2 years ago. This project is going to be a long slog, just like the long slog of making OKC a “major league city”. We can and will get there. I’m proud of what we’ve done so far, and I thank you readers for being there. If this is a fools errand, I’ll be a fool.
Here is some of what I want to do in the new year:
- Grow and expand our multimedia offerings. Expect a lot more video, music, podcasts, and animation in the next year.
- More actual news. We will cover things that matter, especially things that aren’t being adequately covered by the other media outlets in this town.
- Political coverage- we intend to be at the capital and at city hall on a regular basis.
- An interactive index of Things to Do in Oklahoma City, so you never have to face a dull moment.
- Features on local history and culture
- Regional travel and tourism
- More of what we already do well- photography, cultural commentary, reviews, and features.
Stick with us. It will be worth it.
I drove the new I-40 today. I am a sucker for civil engineering. It’s lovely. The Skydance bridge is truly striking, and the idea of not falling through a car sized hole in the interstate is encouraging. I felt like I was able to envision the city as it will be in 20 years, and the vista is striking. I envisioned shiny new development through the entire core, an active riverfront, a bustling central city. All of this is likely to happen, and soon. Oklahoma City is as prosperous as Athens in it’s prime, and only becomes more so with each new gas well that is fracked into existence in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The true test of our progress will be this: do we confine our prosperity and progress to pretty buildings and motorways, or do we use it to better the quality of life for us all?
I think you know what I hope for. Either way, we’ll be here to document it.