"It's amazing that it works at all"


A bit of belated blogging: A week ago I attended the monthly luncheon of the Tulsa County Republican Men's Club (a misleading name, since probably half of our attendees are women). The guest speaker was Howard Barnett, former CEO of the late great Tulsa Tribune, and chief of staff for former Governor Frank Keating for most of Keating's two terms of office.

Barnett spoke about the current budget mess at the State Capitol. He said that the process is messed up because it was designed that way by Alfalfa Bill Murray. Oklahoma's founding fathers didn't trust big business and didn't trust the railroads, and made it difficult for companies to do business here. They also didn't trust government, so they hobbled the executive branch as best they could. Barnett says Oklahoma really doesn't have an executive branch, as most state government agencies are run by boards, to which the Governor only has a minority of the appointees, and he can only remove his appointees with cause. If the Governor appoints someone apparently solid to a board, but then his appointee goes native, becomes more of an advocate than an overseer for the agency, the Governor is stuck. There is no accountable executive power, and there is no means for negotiating priorities among the different agencies of government.

Barnett says he's working on a book about Oklahoma Government, and his working title is It's Amazing That It Works At All.

Barnett called for reform of the State Constitution. He headed up the effort to rewrite Tulsa's City Charter in 1989, and reflecting on that experience, acknowledged that they hobbled the City Council excessively, out of a fear that Councilors could become ward bosses. Some would say that the result under the previous administration was a city-wide ward boss unfettered by checks and balances. Barnett said that some structures do a better job of functioning when you have the wrong people in office -- so constitutional reform is important -- but the quality of the office holder is the most important factor in the healthy functioning of government.

If I can find anything on the web that Barnett has written on this subject, I'll link to it, and post an update to this entry.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 23, 2003 6:45 PM.

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