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Gazette at 30


Bill Bleakley October 15th, 2009

When Oklahoma Gazette's first issue came off the press in October 1979, Oklahoma City was a much different place than it is now. Much of the '70s was rough on Oklahoma City. Instead of working on a...

When Oklahoma Gazette's first issue came off the press in October 1979, Oklahoma City was a much different place than it is now.

Much of the '70s was rough on Oklahoma City. Instead of working on a rational plan of school desegregation, a recalcitrant board of education said "hell no" and got court-ordered busing.

Integration of the Oklahoma City School District cut its enrollment in half. An exodus of families with school-aged children made boomtowns out of surrounding cities.

Residential property values plummeted, and homebuilders stopped building within the city's school district. Historic neighborhoods fought for their existence against the elements of urban decay.

The chronic fight for political dominance of City Hall between South and Northwest Oklahoma City continued to impede responsible and progressive city government.

The Pei Plan and urban renewal decimated the historical essence of our downtown architecture. City teachers and police officers went on strike.

Were there any bright spots in those times? One might argue the oil boom of the late '70s was one, but it was only fun as long as it lasted.

Seemed like everyone had a gold nugget ring, drank champagne out of slippers and threw caution to the wind, particularly when borrowing money to drill for oil.

Following the oil bust, it seemed we spent the decade of the '80s trying to figure out how to get ourselves out of the mess we were in.

Many good people got involved during those challenging times in a variety of civic efforts. Through a series of school elections, a new board of education struggled to keep the school district functioning.

Inner-city neighborhoods began organizing themselves into associations and preservation districts. Many historic neighborhoods became preservation districts and imposed protective restrictions on their properties.

Civic leaders began to ponder ways to transform Oklahoma City from a loser to a winner and engaged in discussions on how to make profound changes in the city and its psyche.

In the early '90s, the discussions became plans of action. Under the leadership of Mayor Ron Norick, civic leaders throughout the city conceived and implemented the MAPS concept, built public support and passed a sales tax to fund it.

Later in the decade, civic leaders under the leadership of Mayor Kirk Humphreys and School Board President Cliff Hudson developed the MAPS for Kids concepts to rebuild the infrastructure of the city school district.

As all these changes have occurred, Oklahoma Gazette has pursued its mission of analyzing conditions, stimulating thought and discussion, exposing detractions and recognizing contributions to the quality of life in Central Oklahoma.

With an initial focus on historic preservation and neighborhood preservation, our content has grown to encompass opinion, features, investigative reporting and extensive coverage of the arts and entertainment.

There may be challenges ahead for our newspaper, but we'll do our best to stay true to our mission. Democracy depends on a free and independent press to give our citizens the information and opinions we need to effectively participate in the decisions that affect our quality of life.

The staff of Oklahoma Gazette will continue to work hard to earn your trust so that we can be "your choice, your voice" for the next 30 years and beyond.

Bleakley is publisher of Oklahoma Gazette.

 
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