Appointments matter


The City Council moved ahead by a 6-3 vote last night with a new ordinance setting deadlines for the Mayor to make appointments to the City's Authorities, Boards, and Commissions (ABCs). The Whirled predictably ridiculed the idea in an editorial yesterday -- couldn't figure out how the citizens of Tulsa had suffered any harm from board members continuing to serve long past the expiration of their terms. I say "predictably" because the Whirled editorial board opposes the idea of popular sovereignty and accountability. They prefer a system as close to oligarchy as possible while still maintining some veneer of democratic process.

ABCs have substantial powers over land use planning and the operation of our city's water, sewer, and trash systems, and the airport. While some boards can only make recommendations for consideration by elected officials, other boards (particularly the boards of Title 60 trusts) have considerable power to commit public resources and set policy without review from our elected representatives. The only opportunity for these ABC members to be held accountable to the will of the people is when they come before the City Council for confirmation of their appointment or reappointment. None of these appointments are for life. Most are for terms of three or four years, but those terms are meaningless if appointees are permitted to serve for years beyond the expiration without facing the Council.

Norma Turnbo is a case in point. Her term on the Board of Adjustment expired 17 months ago, in May 2003. The BoA grants variances and special exceptions to the City's zoning ordinance -- decisions that can have a significant impact on property owners. If you don't like a BoA decision, your only recourse is to take it to District Court. No elected official has standing to review their decisions. There's a consensus that Norma needs to go, but nothing can be done unless the Mayor nominates a replacement. Even if she's renominated and rejected by the Council, we're stuck with her continuing to make important decisions, unaccountable to the people of Tulsa.

Congratulations to the Council on passing this ordinance. And congratulations to the Mayor as well -- this will give him some impetus to do what he wants and needs to do to on these appointments.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 15, 2004 9:23 AM.

HFFZ urges attendance at tonight's Council meeting was the previous entry in this blog.

Whirled won't take its own advice is the next entry in this blog.

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