The forgotten commissioner


Fearful of well-financed opposition when she runs for a full term next year, County Commissioner Randi Miller voted back in July to send a billion-dollar tax increase to the voters, despite her objections to the structure of the ballot, her objections to many of the projects, and her concerns about issues of governance and oversight. By declining to vote against the logrolled ballot, she gave the vote yes forces the gift of unanimity, allowing them to claim that all elected officials supported this package.

Miller went so far as to pose smiling for a photo, standing between Commissioner Wilbert Collins and Mayor Bill LaFortune behind a giant "Vote Yes" banner. Her appearance in the photo was not mentioned in the photo caption or the accompanying news story.

In return for her compliance with the powers that be against her better judgment, Commissioner Miller has not been treated with respect by her colleagues or by the news media. She was excluded from a Tulsa Press Club event the day after the vote at which her two colleagues spoke (in apparent violation of the Open Meetings Act). At that event Commissioner Collins and Commissioner Bob Dick mentioned separate discussions with bond consultant John Piercey (Bob Dick's "dear friend") and attorney Tom Hilborne about the issuance of revenue anticipation bonds tied to the new sales taxes. Evidently Commissioner Miller is going to be left out of that loop as well.

Last Sunday, Whirled editor Ken Neal singled her out for criticism:

The opposition of these public figures is exceptionally discouraging, as well as that of a lesser light, County Commissioner Randi Miller who is still struggling to learn what a county commissioner does. ...

It makes you wonder how Inhofe, Roberts, Miller, et al, rationalize their opposition. Are they against American? New jobs? Higher education? More likely, they all are playing petty political games, their opposition based more on personality snits than rational thought.

What does a county commissioner do, Ken? She does as she's told, dadgum it! Off with the shoes and back in the kitchen, Randi!

So for all Miller's work to avoid being targeted, she's got a big red bullseye on her. She's made it known that she doesn't like many things about the way the County does business -- the lack of openness, the cozy deals, the disregard for the interests of homeowners.

If custom is followed, Miller, as commissioner for District 2, should take over in January as Chairman of the County Commission. As Chairman, she would have the power to appoint new members to the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, the Tulsa County Board of Adjustment, and the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority, which runs the fairgrounds. Commissioners Dick and Collins may well decide to keep the chairmanship within their two-man majority caucus, and even if they elect Miller, they may deny her her choices to serve on county boards and commissions. This is something to watch carefully, as it will reveal whether Dick and Collins are committed to honest government or will rig the system to suit themselves and their friends.

Appointments to the public trust for the new sales taxes will be another early indication of the manner in which the County will manage their billion-dollar blank check. The trust will have among its trustees the county commissioners, the Mayor of Tulsa, and three suburban Tulsa County mayors, appointed by the Chairman of the County Commission. I have seen nothing in writing that defines the terms of the suburban mayor trustees and whether the terms will be staggered in any way. It's possible that Collins, the current Chairman, will name all three suburban mayor trustees, and with Dick's concurrence, they would control five of the seven seats on the trust, easily overruling any objections from LaFortune or Miller. The fair way to handle it -- give each commissioner one appointment, and stagger terms so that each seat will come up for reappointment when the originally appointing commissioner will be chairman.

Let's watch carefully and see if Collins and Dick will play fair, or if they will effectively disenfranchise one-third of Tulsa County's population.

As for Commissioner Randi Miller: She's got nothing to gain by complying meekly with the majority. If she's going to be outvoted 2-1, she may as well make some noise about it, rather than acquiesce in a 3-0 vote for the sake of "consensus".

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 22, 2003 1:54 AM.

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