71st & Harvard: Mayoral action invites a lawsuit?


On Thursday Mayor Bill LaFortune approved the rezoning of 71st & Harvard for F&M Bank. Although the Mayor was in town Thursday, his deputy Steve Sewell signed the ordinance in his stead. One City Hall observer who contacted me noted that there's an emerging pattern of the Mayor delegating the approval of controversial items -- the Mayor had Sewell sign off on giving a big chunk of taxpayer money to the Tulsa Metro Chamber for "economic development" activities during the Vision 2025 campaign, bypassing the Economic Development Commission.

Whether that's true or not, both the Mayor and the majority on the Council have engaged in buck-passing on this issue. Councilor Tom Baker told a gathering of neighborhood leaders that it wasn't his place to question the judgment of the City Attorney's office and INCOG planning staff. And now the Mayor is saying it's not his place to scrutinize the decision made by the City Council.

To which I say, why the heck did you bother running for office? We elect a City Council to act in part as a check on the unelected bureaucracy and on the Mayor's office. Councilor Baker, did you think that being a City Councilor was just a nice way to get some supplemental retirement income and health coverage for your declining years? Do you resent spending time studying and debating these important issues? Is that why you voted to cut off debate before any significant discussion had taken place?

And Mr. Mayor, where does the buck stop in your administration? Yes, it would be unprecedented for a Mayor to veto a zoning ordinance, but given the unprecedented amount of controversy, didn't you owe your constituents the courtesy of examining the issue independently? Shouldn't you be looking into questionable behavior by your legal department, which threw out a lawful protest petition? And with the threat of a major lawsuit looming, shouldn't you at least give the protestors a hearing? And if you're going to approve it, why not sign the thing yourself?

The property owners protesting the rezoning are planning an appeal, not only for their case but for the sake of homeowners across the City who have been mistreated time and again by the zoning process. Neighborhood leaders from across the city are invited to attend a meeting this Monday night, 7 p.m. at the Embers Restaurant, 81st & Harvard. Attorney Louis Bullock, who may be taking the case for the neighborhood, will be present. The meeting will not only cover the legal process, but will focus on political strategy, because the legal problem could have been avoided with more fair and thoughtful Tulsans on the City Council.

Too many of our councilors seem to be time-servers and buck-passers: Their mantra is "Don't rock the boat, do what the big shots tell us to do, don't think any original thoughts." Follow that path, and they can get the campaign contributions to keep drawing salary and benefits without having to break a sweat or strain the brain. We need to re-elect hardworking thoughtful councilors like Medlock, Roop, and Christiansen, and elect more like them to replace the councilors who just want to be bumps on a log.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 16, 2003 8:11 AM.

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