To whom does the Mayor answer?


Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune delivered the annual "State of the City" address today.

When the President reports on the State of the Union, he addresses a joint session of Congress, the elected representatives of the people of the United States of America.

When the Governor delivers a "State of the State" address, he addresses a joint session of the Oklahoma Legislature, the elected representatives of the people of the State of Oklahoma.

But when the Mayor of Tulsa speaks on the State of the City, he speaks not to the City Council, the elected representatives of the citizens of Tulsa, but to the Tulsa Metro Chamber, at a fundraising banquet for the Tulsa Metro Chamber.

You'd think he would want to demonstrate some independence from this organization, which is, after all, a vendor to the City of Tulsa (as Councilor Jim Mautino rightly identified it), providing unsuccessful economic development services to the City, which are paid for by $1.5 million annually in hotel/motel sales tax revenue. As a private organization, the Chamber is not required to give a detailed accounting of how that money is being spent, and is not required to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not commingled with dues and privately-raised funds. Money is fungible.

As always, keep in mind that when we speak of the Chamber, we don't mean to disparage the thousands of Tulsa area businesses and institutions that are members of the organization. Most join simply because it's what you do. But the Chamber as an institution, particularly the economic development department, seems to have long ago lost track of its purpose and has become a stagnant organization focused on maintaining its power and perquisites.

The Chamber is paying to send the Mayor on a trip to Germany in the name of economic development. Is the Chamber lobbying the Mayor with taxpayer dollars to keep the taxpayer dollars flowing its way?

I could not be at the speech, which was not open to the public anyway. I did hear a few audio excerpts of the speech. I understand from eyewitnesses that the Mayor was introduced by Chamber President Bob Poe, who delivered a vigorous verbal attack on the City Council's Reform Alliance. Unfortunately, the person recording the event for TGOV 24 (the staffer referenced here) didn't happen to record that segment for our enlightenment. The Mayor didn't refute or disagree with anything Mr. Poe (a Democrat) said and in fact piled on, declaring his commitment to keeping the Chamber on the City government teat and denouncing anyone who disagrees.

I would welcome additional details, and would welcome a recording of the event (including Poe's remarks) even more.

There is more to be said, but the most important question is this: To whom does Bill LaFortune answer? To what constituency does he consider himself accountable? From what I heard of his speech, he gave an unequivocal answer today. Too bad for the rest of us.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 14, 2004 11:51 PM.

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