A Tale of Two Town Halls: Sam Roop and the Mayor


I apologize for the delay in posting this.

I started Tuesday evening at Tulsa City Councilor Jim Mautino's District 6 town hall meeting (written up here), then made it to Hicks Park about 20 minutes into Councilor Sam Roop's meeting. There were about 40 people there, plus a couple of news cameras, and I was pleasantly surprised to see Mayor Bill LaFortune sitting in the back row. A dozen or so were people I recognized as being from outside the district, there just to give Sam their support. Mona Miller of Homeowners for Fair Zoning held a sign saying "Sam's the Man!"

Councilor Roop's talk covered public safety, the proposed general obligation bond issue for infrastructure, and the negative impact that passage of the tobacco tax and the gambling propositions will have on city sales tax revenues. Mayor LaFortune expressed agreement that these propositions would hurt the city's bottom line.

Roop expressed support for the idea of taking a portion of the "third penny" and using it as a dedicated revenue source for police and fire. He or the Mayor (I forget who) pointed out that we are nearing the end of our sewer obligation -- an unfunded Federal mandate that has required us to dedicate a large portion of the third penny funds to sewer system improvements. As that obligation goes away, that could free up enough of the next third-penny to fund public safety and still fund the same amount of long-term capital improvements as in the past, without raising the overall tax burden.

Councilor Roop mentioned that he and the Mayor and some other councilors had had a meeting on Monday, and that there had been a frank but constructive exchange of views. When Sam yielded the floor to the Mayor, I think we got a sense of what was discussed.

The Mayor reaffirmed his opposition to any and all efforts to recall city officials and he spoke of signing a pledge to that effect and pledging to cooperate with the Council for the good of the city.

The Mayor expressed his agreement with the Council majority that candidates for appointment to authorities, boards, and commissions should provide full disclosure of any potential conflict of interest.

Regarding the issue of water lines to the suburbs, the Mayor praised Councilor Chris Medlock's idea that a higher rate of return on new water lines (13% instead of 10%) could compensate the City for lower sales tax revenue resulting from suburban retail growth, and could be used to build out the water and sewer system to connect areas within the city limits that are still unserved.

In speaking of the friction between the Council's Reform Alliance majority and the administration, the Mayor said there were times when the administration should have done a better job of getting responsive, relevant, and timely information to the councilors in response to their questions, and that he should have involved the Councilors before controversial matters like the north Tulsa County annexation proposal were made public. He said that the bond issue is an example of the right way to do it, meeting with Councilors early in the process to get their input.

The Mayor defended the new pay scheme for the police -- the arbitrator chose the City's plan rather than the FOP's plan. I found it hard to follow the figures without being able to see anything in writing. It would be nice to see a chart showing what the officers make now, what they would make under the administration's plan, and what they would make under the FOP plan, and all of it in dollars, not percentages, just to be clear. The Mayor pointed out the sacrifices that non-public safety city employees have made, and said we had to find some money to restore part of what they have lost over the last few years of shortfalls.

The Mayor and Councilor Roop spoke of a proposed charter change that would remove civil service protection for managers in city government above a certain level, basically those managers in a policy-making position, so that they would serve at the pleasure of the Mayor rather than be insulated from accountability by civil service protections. Right now, the Mayor has very little leverage to ensure that city departments are carrying out the policies we elected him to pursue. If a department manager won't or can't comply, the Mayor has very little recourse, which means that the people who are directly in charge of city government aren't even indirectly accountable to the citizens. This is a great and long-overdue idea, and I stand ready to give it my full support.

(There's a theory going around that some City Hall bureaucrats are deliberately feeding conflicting information to the Mayor and the Councilors to get them fighting each other, as part of a strategy to discredit them both and help usher in a Democratic mayor like State Secretary of Commerce Kathy Taylor or maybe even old Slewfoot Savage her infernal self.)

I came away encouraged that the Mayor understands what is at stake and that he is prepared to work with and publicly show support for the Reform Alliance councilors, our "Five Star Councilors".

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 7, 2004 11:56 PM.

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