Full court press on Roop


Will he or won't he? Will City Councilor Sam Roop continue to stand firm with the bipartisan majority alliance which is working to open and clean up Tulsa city government? Or will his knees buckle under the pressure of a coordinated PR effort to get him to abandon the reform process which has been his goal throughout his long tenure on the Council?

The Whirled has run an article or an editorial nearly every day over the last two weeks trashing the City Council's majority, principally over their refusal to approve Mayor LaFortune's reappointment of Lou Reynolds and Jim Cameron to the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority (TMUA) board. Sam Roop figures prominently in every article, including being the one councilor whose name appears in a David Simpson cartoon portraying the Council majority as running a torture chamber. Early this last week, KRMG talk show host John E. L. Frette (who uses the stage name "John Erling") phoned staffers at the City Council office to inquire about the process for recalling a councilor, and then launched an on-air campaign focusing on turning Councilor Sam Roop out of office.

Last Sunday Tulsa Whirled editorialist Ken Neal called the Council majority a "wrecking crew" and urged Mayor Bill LaFortune to use his "bully pulpit" to pressure the Council into approving the reappointment of Reynolds and Cameron. Lo and behold, Mayor LaFortune spoke to the Tulsa Rotary Club this week and made a special point to praise Reynolds and Cameron and urge their reappointment. Either the Mayor is doing Ken Neal's bidding, or they are both part of a coordinated offensive to break the Council majority and get Cameron and Reynolds reappointed.

(Anyone else find it ironic that the Whirled would call anyone else a wrecking crew when the Whirled is in the process of wrecking two more downtown buildings?)

And now today, Janet Pearson of the Whirled's editorial board, in a display of Olympic-class synchronized smearing with Mr. Frette, threatens that there is a groundswell of support to remove the majority councilors by recall, in an opinion piece with the subhead, "Is there a people's revolt in the making?" She repeats in a single paragraph the same old slams. Once again, at the end of the piece, the focus is on Sam Roop:

There's some reason for hope in the short term. Some observers think Roop, who showed he has genuine leadership and statesmanlike abilities in previous years, might come to his senses and distance himself from the fractious faction. There have been recent signs he is willing to rejoin the progressive and rational side.

Janet's playing "good cop" to Ken Neal's "bad cop", evidently.

What you are seeing is a full-out PR offensive to trash the Council, to cast doubt on their investigation of the Tulsa Airport Authority, and to pressure Sam Roop into joining the Cockroach Caucus. The offensive appears to be coordinated by Schnake Turnbo Frank, the politically-connected PR firm that ran the Vision 2025 campaign. Earlier this week, a businessman told me that his firm pays what he described as exorbitant monthly consulting fees to Schnake Turnbo, because of the firm's connections with the Tulsa Whirled -- it's a way to ensure that favorable stories are published about the company and that unfavorable stories would be suppressed. We can certainly understand why you'd want to have a firm like that beating the drum for you.

Steve Turnbo, the firm's CEO, headed up the PR effort to get public funds for for Great Plains Airlines, also serving as the airline's spokesman. He was seen recently at the City Council offices with Great Plains CEO David Johnson, looking to speak with any City Councilors they could find.

Margaret Frette (alias "Margaret Erling") is the wife of the radio talk show host mentioned above, who uses his stage name in her career as a lobbyist, is a lobbyist for Great Plains Airlines at the State Capitol. She had a key role in persuading legislators to subsidize the startup airline. The investment made by Great Plains in hiring her appears to continue to pay dividends, as her husband is using his microphone to put the pressure on Councilor Sam Roop, who happens to be heading the Council investigation into the Tulsa Airport Authority and their dealings with Great Plains Airlines.

(Another interesting connection: She was with Schnake Turnbo before going out on her own. And here is her most recent lobbyist registration form, filed on June 24, 2004, and links to all the forms she has filed since the beginning of 2003.)

So why the focus on Sam Roop? Not only is Roop the key councilor on the airport investigation, but he is seen as the likeliest to break with the rest of the bipartisan Council majority. Roop is by temperament conciliatory. He does not like what he calls power politics. Just before this spring's city elections, he refused to press the issue of the zoning protest petition process because the timing would make some of his colleagues, who opposed this basic protection for property owners, vulnerable to defeat in the elections.

Following the Council's July 29 vote to deny reappointment to Cameron and Reynolds, Roop was approached by Council Chairman Randy Sullivan to persuade him to move to reconsider the reappointments at a special meeting on Thursday, August 5, at 4 p.m. Roop attempted to put the item on the agenda, but due to a posting error, the item could not be considered because there was not sufficient public notice. Roop actually made the motion to reconsider, which was seconded by Sullivan, who was chairing the meeting -- an unusual departure from tradition. Councilor Roscoe Turner called attention to the posting error, and Council Attorney Drew Rees noted that this was the same situation as the motion to reconsider approval of the Owasso water line, when City Attorney Martha Rupp Carter ruled that acting without proper notice put the Council in danger of violating the open meeting act.

(Mayor LaFortune showed up at this same meeting to denounce the Council for their refusal to approve his reappointment of Cameron and Reynolds. Sadly, the performance was not captured by the TGOV camera -- it was already in the Council room for the 6 p.m. regular meeting.)

I've followed Sam Roop's career closely, and I've seen him withstand an amazing amount of pressure from the Whirled, from Mayor Savage, and the rest of the city establishment. He has suffered in years past from the lack of a majority of councilors to support his efforts to scrutinize and reform city government. Now that he has the support of four other reform-minded councilors, I am hopeful that he will remain a pillar of this bipartisan coalition, rather than seek refuge in the empty promises of the enemies of reform. Time will tell.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 15, 2004 12:20 AM.

Exposing Democrat dirty tricks was the previous entry in this blog.

Just how good was that chicken poop settlement? is the next entry in this blog.

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