Chairman Miller


Congratulations to County Commissioner Randi Miller, who was unanimously elected on Monday as Chairman for 2004, the first person ever to have served as chairman of the Tulsa City Council and the Tulsa County Commission, holding both posts within a 12-month interval. There was some speculation on my part that she might be passed over, given that the other Commissioners seemed to be quite happy to make decisions without her input. But convention was upheld -- it was District 2's turn -- and Miller got the nod.

The question now is whether she will be able to make effective use of this position to work for reform. The dynamics of a three-member commission are much different than those of a nine-member council. It's hard to build alliances and support for new initiatives when you can't legally discuss county business with even one other commissioner outside of announced meetings.

One of the chief powers of the Chairman is to make appointments to county boards and commissions, and it will be interesting to see what Miller does with this power. She will have her first opportunity this month, when Wesley Harmon's term on the TMAPC expires. Miller could appoint a replacement who will represent the concerns of homeowners. There are any number of zoning savvy neighborhood leaders in her district who would do a great job on the Commission. A few that come to mind -- not an exhaustive list: Pam Deatherage of Brookside, Jim Graham of Riverwood, Fran Pace of Renaissance (a former planning commissioner), Maria Barnes of Kendall-Whittier, and this writer. All these people would be fair to developers and homeowners, but would work to address the problems that frustrate everyone involved in the process.

The easy, but wrong, choice would be to appoint yet another member with connections to the development industry. It would be a tempting choice for Miller, who is up for election to a full term this year and will have to raise a pile of money to handle a primary challenge as well as a general election.

Miller should also have opportunity to replace a member of the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority. Besides the three commissioners, there are two other members, Bob Parmele and Jim Orbison, both deeply entrenched in the county crony network. Whoever is up to be replaced should be, preferably with someone who lives within 1/2 mile of Expo Square and will ensure that the pursuit of profit is balanced against the concerns of nearby property owners. In the Bell's roller coaster dispute, neighbors proposed a number of creative alternatives that would have allowed the coaster to be built with less impact on the surrounding neighborhoods, and I'm sure they'd apply the same creativity and fairness to other Expo Square issues. There are dozens of people I know who would do a fine job -- for example, my neighbor and Midtown Coalition treasurer Margaret Perrault, who is an attorney. (And yes, I live within 1/2 mile of Expo Square, too, and would be honored to serve on the board.)

Miller ran for office as a reformer, and her position as Chairman gives her some opportunities, through appointments, to carry out those promises. She could still be overridden by Dick and Collins, but even so, making the effort is crucial. It would not only be the right thing to do, but would encourage her constituents that someone at the County Courthouse is on their side.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 7, 2004 1:07 AM.

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