Sore winners


One of the consolations of losing last week's "Vision 2025" vote was the thought that the winning side would bask in its victory and, satisfied with the result, would not seek retribution against those who opposed the tax or remained neutral.

Had the opposition won, I would have expected opposition leaders to be targeted, as they were following the 1997 and 2000 votes. Those defeats made some powerful people very angry, and retribution was used both to punish opposition leaders (as a means of deterring others from following in their footsteps) and also to prevent any opponents from having the power to hinder some future effort to raise taxes to build a new downtown sports arena. I was a bit worried about the repercussions to me and to my family had our side been victorious.

But now that the other side has their victory and will get their arena, why should they pay any attention to the powerless folks who were unable to stand in their way? Now that they've achieved their goal, why should they be concerned with us? So I thought.

Guess I was wrong.

Advertisers on 1170 KFAQ are being encouraged to stop sponsoring that station, as a way of getting Michael DelGiorno off the air. Michael and KFAQ were crucial to the opposition getting a hearing, and now that the county has their "billion dollar blank check", Michael intends to be sure they spend it as promised, and that they administer the funds in a fair and open manner. Perhaps some people consider that a threat. Through sources outside both stations, I have heard that the first major sponsor to pull out was KTUL Channel 8, which dropped its sponsorship of OU football broadcasts. (Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.) We've written about KTUL before.

Meanwhile, the Tulsa Whirled editorial Borg collective is ganging up on individuals and groups who remained publicly neutral. Here's Monday's editorial, with my comments interspersed:

Party poopers By World's Editorial Writers 9/15/2003

GOP, Demo leaders out of step

Tuesday's Vision 2025 election, a victory for proponents of progress in Tulsa County, demonstrated that the so-called leaders of the local Democratic and Republican parties are out of step with their members.

The four sales-tax initiatives on the ballot passed by landslide margins of more than 60 percent. That could not have happened without support from Republican and Democratic voters alike.

How does the Whirled define party membership? Simply registering to vote with one party or the other -- does that make you a member? Most of the people I know who are active in the Republican party were completely opposed to this tax increase, but many of those same people believed the party should not take an official stand in opposition or in favor, in part out of respect for Republican elected officials, donors, and activists who backed the tax.

Yet during the run-up to election day the county parties refused to take a position on an issue that was key to the area's economic future.

The party chairmen, Democrat Elaine Dodd and Republican Don Burdick, went so far as to issue a rare joint statement expressing their neutrality and declaring that the local party leadership's role was to urge members to educate themselves on the issues and to vote. The fact that neither party has ever before hesitated to weigh in on important issues before the electorate suggests that their explanation was so much twaddle.

The Whirled writer -- probably Ken Neal, who is given to make bald assertions without regard to facts -- makes an amazing assertion: He says it is a fact that "neither party has ever before hesitated to weigh in on important issues before the electorate". That is a falsifiable statement -- no wiggle room or Clinton clauses here -- and it is false. The fact is that the Tulsa County Republican Party also remained neutral with respect to the "It's Tulsa Time" tax. It's my understanding that the Democrats remained neutral in 1997, but issued a statement in support in 2000. Both parties remained neutral (as far as I can recall) on the cockfighting initiative. There are plenty of important issues before the electorate where the parties stay out -- usually because the issue divides their ranks or because the issue isn't central to the party's concerns.

By the way, the Whirled refused to publish the "rare joint statement", which was written by the two party leaders in response to an unprovoked editorial attack. The Whirled's excuse was that it was too long at 500 words to run as a letter, but they offered no reason for refusing to run it as a guest opinon or mentioning this unusual occurrence in its news pages.

More likely, the Republican "leaders" were afraid to utter aloud any word that included the letters T, A or X, for fear of provoking their members on the extreme, anti-tax right.

There was fear at work, but as usual the Whirled gets it wrong. Overwhelmingly, Republican elected officials and party leaders stated their opposition to this tax privately, but said nothing for fear of having their funds cut off by supporters of the tax. I recently received a fundraiser invitation -- the beneficiary of the fundraiser privately opposed the tax but made no public statements about it. I noticed that several of the listed "sponsors" (usually donors of $1,000 or more) were also signers of the June letter warning against political interference with the "vision" package.

The Democrats' reluctance to take a stand is harder to fathom. After all, theirs is supposedly the party of progress. Perhaps it was sour grapes after similar Tulsa capital improvements packages twice failed to pass under the former Democratic city administration.

It's apparent reading this that the author has not bothered to speak to the leaders he's trashing. He just assumes that anyone who isn't in full enthusiastic agreement with him must be acting from base motives.

I don't know the inner workings of the Democratic party, but I do know a lot of active Democrats who oppose on principle the idea of increasing a regressive tax to build entertainment facilities. Back in 1997 and 2000 some of them were reluctant to oppose their own Mayor publicly, some were silent for fear of retribution. There were some wealthy donors to Democrats pushing hard for this tax to pass, and there would have been repercussions had any Democratic elected officials come out publicly.

Whatever the reasons for it, the leadership vacuum in both parties is shameful. Leaders are supposed to lead. The Democratic and Republican "leaders" refused to lead on this issue, even in a direction their members clearly were willing to be led.

So what exactly is the problem? If the voters voted for it anyway, why was it important for the parties to support it officially? Why waste ink and paper attacking them for neutrality? The Tulsa Whirled should thank the party leaders for staying out of it. The Whirled should particularly thank the GOP leaders who kept the party from taking an official stance in opposition, despite strong grass-roots pressure. The GOP staying out of the fray probably boosted the yes side's margin by 5%.

What do you think is behind this attack, which is an echo of a longer blast from Ken Neal on Sunday? Is it just dyspepsia, or is it part of a longer term strategy?

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 18, 2003 1:05 AM.

An appreciation of the doomed Denver Grill was the previous entry in this blog.

Time to reform the County Commission is the next entry in this blog.

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