Washington Post notices recall

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"Coast to Coast", a selection of short national news items from around the country on page A2 of Sunday's Washington Post, included a brief item from stringer Lois Romano about the effort to recall two Tulsa City Councilors. I'm happy to see the issue gaining some national attention, but there's much that's wrong or missing in this brief account. Here's how it begins:

An 18-month feud between factions on the Tulsa City Council has stymied city operations and horrified residents, as dueling recall efforts dominate the news.

City operations have been stymied? I haven't seen it. Streets get fixed, fires are put out, police patrol the city -- same as always. And as for horrified residents, Ms. Romano, please produce photographic evidence that the debate on the City Council has caused any Tulsa resident's hair to stand on end.

The rift came into public view about a year ago at a now infamous meeting at an Arby's, when Medlock and three other councilmen played hooky to stall the election of the new chairman in what should have been a pro forma vote.

Wrong. A chairman and vice chairman had already been elected at the new council's first meeting, shortly after their swearing in. The purpose of the walkout was to try to preserve the opportunity to reconsider the election of the chairman after Roscoe Turner's election was duly certified and he was sworn in. New Chairman Randy Sullivan was planning a significant break with tradition by appointing his faction-mates as permanent chairmen of each council committee, rather than sharing the chairmanship among several councilors.

Soon, their ranks were joined by a fifth member, giving them a bipartisan voting bloc -- dubbed "the Gang of Five." The bloc delayed or thwarted initiatives it deemed not in the interest of the populace -- such as the building of a bank near a residential area.

Interesting that Romano never uses the word "majority." The Post's readership can't be expected to know that the Tulsa City Council has only nine members.

The Reform Alliance became controversial for its own initiatives -- most notably for pursuing an investigation of Tulsa's airports and the city's involvement in financing Great Plains Airlines. They also instigated a debate about how our city water system should be managed. The reformers pushed for a charter change to protect property owners from arbitrary rezoning by reinstating the protest petition process, an effort that won unanimous support from the Council but was defeated by a "slip up" on the part of the City Clerk's office.

Although the five see themselves as protecting the city from rubber-stamped decisions by the power elite, the chamber of commerce's president has painted them as "a cancer on the community." A well-financed interest group of businessmen launched a recall effort of Medlock and another councilman; the League of Women Voters and the NAACP joined in and denounced the recall. Republican Mayor Bill LaFortune further disrupted the bloc by hiring one of the renegades to his cabinet.

I think that sentence should begin with "because" instead of "although," and it would put the (former) Chamber of Commerce president's attacks in context if the article mentioned the Reform Alliance's initiative to make the Chamber accountable for the tax dollars it receives from the City.

"Renegade" is a rather value-laden term, isn't it? It distracts from the fact that the group had a majority on the Council. And it would be more accurate to say that LaFortune eliminated the bloc's majority on the Council by hiring Sam Roop.

Meanwhile, a popular radio talk-show host, Michael DelGiorno, added his voice to the cacophony with daily tirades and support of a rival recall effort -- this one against the mayor and four other council members.

No mention of the poisonous atmosphere created by the Tulsa Whirled's repeated attacks on the Council's reformers or of the slanderous contents of the tabloids put out by the secretive pro-recall campaign.

"The whole thing has been extremely disruptive to the city," the mayor's chief of staff, Clay Bird, said wearily. "This is not the kind of national publicity we want."

It has been disruptive, and it's too bad Clay Bird's boss didn't try harder to make it go away. If he had insisted that the City Clerk do his job in validating the petition signatures, and if he had hired a City Attorney that believes in following the law, the recall would probably be dead.

Again, it's nice to see that the issue has received some national attention. Too bad the story wasn't told as completely as it should have been.


W. said:

Y'know, I keep reading about Medlock whining about city attorney Jackere's opinion about the F&M Bank plat. Yet the city council's own attorney had the same opinion. When you have one attorney say something, it's an opinion. When you have two attorneys with the same opinion, you'd better pay attention instead of ignoring it.

There's still only one opinion here. The City Attorney is the boss of the Council's "own" attorney, and it would be very unlikely for him to go against his boss's opinion. The Council's attorney is selected by the City Attorney and serves the Council at the City Attorney's pleasure. He is not independent at all, certainly not in the sense that, say, a congressional committee's counsel is independent from the Attorney General.

Warren said:

Never thought these words could issue from my fingers, but...

"W., you make a lot of sense."

Mike said:

And what do you have when the members of the board of directors of F & M Bank give the maximum allowable contribution to several different city councilors? You have the "bought and paid four". Beautiful! What a great good ol' boy network we have here!

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 31, 2005 1:29 AM.

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