Time to reform the County Commission


One of Tulsa's most effective neighborhood leaders calls for reform of county government in yesterday's Whirled letters column:

The county commission form of government has brought more shame than pride to Oklahoma for many years. Many Tulsa County citizens believe it is time for a change to a county council form of government. Citizens throughout the county would be better and more fairly represented.

It is detrimental to permit one commissioner to wield most of or all the power in county government as it often happens in our state.

Who wields the most power in many counties? The commissioner who has been in public office too long. A second commissioner is often bargained with or bought for support and leaving the third commissioner's constituents to suffer for not participating with the power commissioner and the "good old boy gang."

When repairs are needed in any level of our government, we should promote and participate in making the repairs.

Jim Graham, Tulsa

Back in 1992, a County Home Rule act was passed which would allow only Tulsa County the right to enact a charter. In 1994, Tulsa County voters approved the development of a charter by a vote of 96,951 to 61,846.

The following year, the home rule act was struck down by the appeals court as a "special law", making an unconstitutional distinction by effectively allowing Tulsa County to pass a charter while forbidding the same right to Oklahoma County. The County Commission chose not to appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and the charter commission folded its tents shortly thereafter. Throughout the process, the Tulsa Whirled was a major supporter of county government reform in its editorial columns.

It's a shame that we failed to reform county government before entrusting it with a billion dollars. We're putting a lot of weight on a structure that wasn't designed for anything more than building two-lane roads. As Jim's letter points out, the dynamics of such a small legislative body guarantees that one-third of the public will be cut out of the decision-making process. More about county government to come.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 18, 2003 1:42 AM.

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