Whirled doesn't check facts, shoots off mouth


Why does reading a Whirled editorial invoke the same reaction in me as getting a whiff of dirty diaper? It's an annoying and disgusting task, but it's gotta be dealt with. Especially when, in the course of shooting off their mouths without getting their facts straight, the editorial board accuses the Reform Alliance councilors of shooting off their mouths without getting their facts straight. Yes, the Mayor is in Germany on an eight-day Chamber-funded junket, right after his "State of the City" speech before the Metro Tulsa Chamber, and at a time when the City is reconsidering how best to oversee the way the Metro Tulsa Chamber bureaucracy spends our tax dollars for economic development.

Details and a point-by-point rebuttal after the jump.

Here's today's offal offering:

Recall madness

Councilors want to restrict citizen right

The City Council's fractious five can dish it out, but they can't take it. Now that an as-yet-unidentified entity is conducting a recall inquiry in their districts, they're squawking that the effort is unfair -- maybe even illegal -- and they're talking about restricting recall.

I haven't heard any Councilor complaining about a recall attempt being unfair or suggesting that recall ought to be limited by law.

This from the same bunch who has targeted dedicated, hard-working citizens for admittedly no good reason; possibly ruined our relationships with suburban leaders and imperiled important regional utility plans; refused to annex land needed for future growth; and driven off the very forces -- builders and developers -- who can make a community vibrant and strong.

"Targeted dedicated, hard-working citizens" -- no. The term of office for two members of the water board expired, the Mayor nominated them for a new term, and the Council majority voted not to approve them for a new term. The Council majority would love to sell more water to the suburbs, but they want to do it on terms that are fair to the citizens and ratepayers of Tulsa.

As for those "important regional utility plans" -- did Tulsa's elected officials ever approve those plans, or were they adopted by unelected commission members?

Refused to annex land needed for future growth? The land is protected for Tulsa's future growth against any other city annexing it. At a time of tight budgets, should the City be taking on more obligations to provide services and infrastructure?

Driven off builders and developers? Name one.

Since taking office earlier this year, the five -- Sam Roop, Chris Medlock, Jim Mautino, Roscoe Turner and Jack Henderson -- have taken one misstep after another. They regularly trot out their lame claim they are looking out for the people, but when their activities imperil city progress, growth and improvements, it's tough to prove the people's interests are being protected.

"Lame claim" -- you're a poet and don't even know it. The Reform Alliance's actions -- asking questions, exercising oversight and accountability -- don't imperil any person or plan which is honestly intended for the City's good, but they might imperil those who would misuse city resources for their own ends.

Now that those same citizens might be participating in a recall effort, these councilors think that maybe a wide-open recall process isn't such a good idea. Funny how attitudes change when the shoe is on the other foot.

The Whirled again sets up the straw man. No councilor has called for restricting the right to recall an elected official. They were apparently asked by the Whirled's reporter to comment on the circumstances when recalling an official would be prudent -- not when it should or shouldn't be allowed by law. Surely the Whirled editorial board, as anti-democratic as it is, would not want to see recall efforts launched for frivolous reasons.

Several councilors predictably charged that the Tulsa World and the Metro Tulsa Chamber are behind the recall effort, though they have no evidence of that claim. For the record, the World editorial board is in no way involved in the effort. We do what we do out in the open -- in print, for all to see, unlike some elected officials.

When asked to speculate on who might be behind this, it's only natural to wonder if the harshest critics are involved in the effort. Given the constant attacks on the Reform Alliance majority by the Whirled editorial board and the last week's anti-reform rant by Chamber President Bob Poe, it's reasonable to wonder if they might have some connection. You will recall that the Whirled was the first to raise the notion of recall in a Janet Pearson op-ed on August 15.

Does the editorial board do what they do in the open? In fact, they have a record for hiding their real reasons for taking a position or making an endorsement, because their real reasons wouldn't evoke the agreement of their readers.

Nor is Mayor Bill LaFortune on a chamber-sponsored trip this week, as one claimed. These councilors apparently never learned it is wise to check your facts before shooting off your mouth.

Yes, it is wise to check your facts. And in fact, Bill LaFortune is on a chamber-funded trip to Celle, Germany, and the Principality of Liechtenstein. This was on the City Council September 9, item 3(a):

Acceptance of donation to cover the travel expenses of Mayor LaFortune for his official business visit to Celle, Germany and Lichtenstein, Switzerland (September 15 to September 23, 2004). 04-539

The supporting information for the item, which for some reason is not on the web, was a letter from the Tulsa Metro Chamber stating that the organization would be covering the Mayor's expenses. (It's not possible to link directly to the agenda, but go here and enter "09/09/2004" in the box.)

At least one councilor suggested the recall activity might be illegal if state ethics laws aren't being followed. If that's so, someone will have to face up to it sooner or later.

Not quite. The activity wouldn't be illegal, but the failure to report the expenditure in accordance with state ethics laws would. Councilor Medlock pointed out (as did I in my interview with KJRH) that doing a "voter identification survey" is a campaign expenditure -- just like soliciting signatures for an initiative petition. The campaign committee created to run this survey will have to file a statement of organization with the City Clerk's office within 10 days of raising or spending $500, under the Political Subdivision Ethics Act.

These councilors claim the recall effort is an attempt to intimidate them and shut them up. They hurl all kinds of baseless charges in a blatant attempt to stymie the recall effort, and then claim they are the ones being intimidated? C'mon.

Asking who's behind the recall survey calls is hardly an attempt to stymie the effort, unless whoever is behind the effort is easily rattled.

But a recall threat could be used to intimidate a public official, particularly an official elected with grass-roots support against a better-financed opponent. Roscoe Turner and Jim Mautino were heavily outspent by incumbents financed (in large part) by board members of F&M Bank and Trust Company (which is chaired by Robert Lorton, the chairman of World Publishing Co.). In a recall election, these men would face a well-funded campaign with the weight of the Whirled behind it. Men of lesser character might cave under such pressure, but with these men, as with a diamond, the pressure only seems to make them stronger.

The City Charter recall provision is quite unrestricted precisely so citizens will feel free to seek change if they are so inclined. Now, the embattled five want to restrict the recall right to a few narrow sets of circumstances. In their view, recall shouldn't apply when a majority of councilors thwart progress and harm the city, supposedly in the name of the people.

So who's really looking out for the people? And who's looking out for their own hides?

At this point, the Whirled is just making things up. No one has proposed restricting the right to recall.

A recall of a single councilor, for whatever reason, has the potential of being disruptive to the workings of city government, so imagine the impact of trying to remove a majority of the City Council at once. Talk about tarnishing the city's image to businesses who might consider moving here! It would be better if those pushing the recall would reconcile themselves to the fact that these are the duly elected representatives of the people of Tulsa, that the majority thinks it necessary to do things differently than they've been done before, and that in a representative body the majority rules.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 23, 2004 1:43 AM.

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