TMAPC chairman moons citizens
Well, not literally. But today at the meeting of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (TMAPC), commission Chairman Joe Westervelt demonstrated his deep contempt for homeowners by deleting from the agenda, at the last minute, a controversial item which had brought dozens of people down to City Hall for the opportunity to speak at a public hearing. I understand that County Commissioner Randi Miller even cancelled an official appointment in Oklahoma City to be present for this hearing.
There is a procedure allowing for an item to be continued to a future meeting, but that requires the vote of the commission, and interested parties are allowed to make their case for or against deferring the item to a future date. Instead, Westervelt just announced his decision to drop the item from the agenda, and allowed two minutes for those who came to speak on the issue to clear the room.
The issue was the zoning petition process, a process that was unfairly administered in the 71st & Harvard case, and which is now the subject of a lawsuit. The City Council asked the TMAPC to examine the issue and make a recommendation by January 20.
There had been rumors that the item might be pulled from the agenda, but at the previous day's City Council committee meeting, INCOG planning director Wayne Alberty gave firm assurances to the City Council that the item would be heard, that the TMAPC could not simply drop the item, because it was advertised as being on the agenda.
Why was it simply dropped? There's a theory that if they had proceeded to allow the public to speak, it would have permitted the City Council to move forward with their own proposal to amend the zoning protest petition process, regardless of TMAPC final action. The development interests (which hold an overwhelming majority on the TMAPC) want to postpone this issue until after the Council elections, when there isn't any political pressure to ensure that the process is reformed in a meaningful way.
Westervelt is well known for his hostility to the interests of homeowners, and his arrogant treatment of those who come before the TMAPC to voice their concerns and even of his fellow commissioners. In 2001, I witnessed his shameful and inappropriate public chastisement of then-Councilor Brady Pringle, who had come to speak about a proposal to widen Riverside Drive. At last month's TMAPC work session on the topic of the zoning protest process, Westervelt tore into Councilor Chris Medlock and homeowner Steve Denney for daring to propose improvements to the process.
Westervelt was first appointed to the TMAPC by then-Mayor Susan Savage in 1996, reappointed in 1999, and in 2002 he was reappointed by new Mayor Bill LaFortune, over the objections of neighborhood leaders. At the time, the Mayor said he was aware of the concerns about Westervelt's conduct, and that he had promised to behave himself. The Mayor personally told me, and he repeated this to many other neighborhood leaders, that if Westervelt got out of line again, he would personally come down to the TMAPC and make his displeasure known.
So after Westervelt pulled his latest stunt, about 20 neighborhood leaders decided to go talk to the Mayor. We rode up the elevator to the 11th floor, but the Mayor and Deputy Mayor were out. Steve Denney and I ended up speaking to Karen Keith and Erin Patrick and outlining the concerns of the assembled neighborhood leaders. We asked that the Mayor use his influence to expedite this issue, because we want it dealt with before the city elections. (The Council had asked for the TMAPC to deal with the matter back in January before the city primary.) We said we want the Mayor to deal with Westervelt as he promised he would. We urged the Mayor to clean house at the City Attorney's office, which is actively working against neighborhood interests in this matter. And we urged the Mayor to create a balance on TMAPC between homeowner's interests and the interests of the development industry, by choosing his appointments wisely.
I was told that our concerns were relayed to the Mayor, and I look forward to hearing and passing on a reply when it comes.
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