The neighbors are restless


Monday night's meeting of neighborhood leaders was a great success. I'm only getting time now to write about it. I had to leave the meeting early to get to a Coventry Chorale rehearsal (our concert is Friday night at 7:30), then home to do bills, get a bit of sleep, then work (including a work meeting), a TulsaNow leadership meeting, and the Midtown Coalition meeting. Then some family business to take care of, and now finally a minute or two to blog before I pitch forward and fall asleep with the laptop as a pillow.

About 130 people from about 40 neighborhood associations gathered Monday night to discuss the 71st and Harvard / F&M Bank rezoning case, the hear about the legal process ahead, and to consider what can be done politically to address the way homeowners have been mistreated, not only in this case, but in countless zoning cases over the years.

Among the crowd were two current councilors (Medlock and Christiansen), two former councilors (Turner and Huston), and several potential candidates for council, including John Eagleton, who will be running for District 7, whether Randy Sullivan runs again or not, and Roscoe Turner, who will be running to recapture District 3 from David Patrick.

It was said several times that the anger over this issue is not about losing a zoning case, disappointing as that was, but over the illegal lengths to which officials went in order to disqualify the neighborhood's protest, stripping them of an important legal protection against arbitrary rezoning. I'm sure the councilors who supported this and the Mayor felt that the anger would soon subside and the issue would be forgotten. The fundamental unfairness of the process, and the unwillingness of most of the councilors and the Mayor to stand up for fairness won't soon be forgotten.

A leader from the 71st & Harvard area made one of the best points of the evening -- if this is the way zoning laws are enforced, we'd be better off without them. They provide only the illusion of protection to property owners.

I spoke for a few minutes about the political situation. There's no point in having rules unless you have honest, fair, and just rulers to enforce them. We need councilors who won't pass the buck. I called attention to the Chamber's infill report, and their radical plan to remake Midtown Tulsa, without regard for the people who have already invested in homes and businesses in their targeted areas. Zoning and planning were the stealth issues in the 2002 council campaign, with councilors and candidates targeted for defeat for being concerned with the impact of zoning changes on neighborhoods. In 2004 we can make these issues front and center. I warned the audience to expect fair and honest candidates to be trashed by the Whirled -- expect it and take it with a grain of salt. The Whirled will trash these people because of their positions on development and neighborhoods, but the Whirled will find was to marginalize them without raising these issues. I called for neighborhood leaders to find good candidates and support them with money and time.

After I finished and headed back to my seat, someone argued that the real problem is not with the Council, but with the TMAPC, and we need to work with the Council to bring about reform. I replied that if the current bunch undertakes reform we won't be happy with the results, and that we need to clean house first.

Councilor Medlock spoke of efforts to clarify the ambiguities in the zoning protest process. He was hopeful that even councilors who opposed the neighborhoods on this issue would support a modest reform to set out more clearly the standard a protest must meet. Medlock was praised by several of the speakers for his leadership on this issue.

I'm told that at the end of the meeting there was great support for moving ahead with legal action against the City and for taking political action. Several people commented about how hopeful the meeting made them feel. Me too.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 19, 2003 1:34 AM.

City-wide neighborhood meeting tonight was the previous entry in this blog.

Council to punt? is the next entry in this blog.

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