Tulsa commission takes no action against jazz hall


TULSA, Okla. -- Tulsa County commissioners took no action Monday against the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame after the nonprofit announced it had raised enough money to pay off its long-overdue bills.

The commissioners had given the jazz hall an ultimatum last month to pay tens of thousands of dollars in delinquent bills by early October or face eviction.

Jazz hall executives told the commissioners at a special meeting Monday that the organization had cut checks totaling more than $75,000 to pay overdue assessments, insurance and utility bills.

Jason McIntosh, the hall's chief executive officer, told commissioners the checks were either sent to the county late Friday or were being processed Monday. McIntosh said it could take a day or so extra for some checks to clear because of the Columbus Day holiday.

The commissioners said they were pleased with the effort by the jazz hall to erase its debts.

"As a fan of jazz music for years and years and years ... I'm certainly very happy," said Commissioner Fred Perry, one of three commissioners who serve as trustees of the county's industrial authority, which has oversight over the jazz hall. "I'm glad to see progress has been made toward the obligations, so that's good news."

Commissioner John Smaligo indicated it would be business as usual between the county and the jazz hall.

"We can continue to move forward as we have in the past," he said.

McIntosh estimated that nearly 100 donors from across the country came forward to help after learning of the facility's financial troubles.

"We're overwhelmed," McIntosh said after the meeting. "We've come a long way, but we've got a long way to go."

The 24-year-old nonprofit has struggled to stay afloat after years of bad budgeting decisions and a souring economy. This spring, a nearly $4,000 check cut by the jazz hall to cover a half-year's insurance on its building bounced.

Past tax documents are littered with red ink, too. Between Oct. 1, 2009 and Sept. 30, 2010, the organization reported revenue of $354,429 and expenses of $449,714 _ a deficit topping $95,000. The next fiscal year, the center made only around $31,000.

Part of the problem for the hall's executives is letting people know that the museum, whose admission is free, exists and why Oklahoma needs it.

Dozens of musicians have been inducted, even if they don't hail from Oklahoma. They include greats such as Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald, as well as Okie-born guitarist Tommy Crook.

Jazz in Oklahoma evolved as African-Americans migrated from the South to the Midwest. Many pioneers of Kansas City swing had roots in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The legendary Count Basie cut his teeth in the state and returned its clubs to recruit new talent.

North Tulsa's Greenwood District, which historians call Black Wall Street because of its thriving shops, newspapers and nightclubs, was a hotbed for up-and-coming acts.