State of the Mayor

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Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune is starting to resemble a Rodney Dangerfield joke: "My mother used to have to tie a pork chop around my neck to get the dog to play with me." Seems like the only way he can generate any positive buzz is to hire people to do the buzzing. And that'll only work as long as the checks clear, which may be a problem -- I hear that his campaign account is several thousand dollars in the hole, an astounding situation for an incumbent mayor.

LaFortune delivered his State of the City address on Thursday to a $30 a plate fundraising luncheon for the Tulsa Metro Chamber. (You'll find a link to the audio of Bill LaFortune's speech here.) He received applause for his acknowledgement of an award received by the Chamber and his salute to Tulsa firefighters, ORU students, and Tulsa businesses assisting in the Hurricane Katrina cleanup in Mississippi. Once past the introduction, the remaining 19 minutes were uninterrupted by applause. The only other sound you'll hear is the clink of fork, knife, and plate. Eyewitnesses tell me that, at the conclusion of the speech, mayoral staffers attempted to start a standing ovation, but those not on LaFortune's payroll declined to follow suit.

Councilor Chris Medlock has promised that if he's elected Mayor, he'll report on the State of the City to the City Council, the elected representatives of the citizens of Tulsa, rather than to a private organization which is a vendor to the city.

In Saturday's Whirled, LaFortune shot back at Medlock:

LaFortune said Medlock’s comments are “obviously a campaign ploy and at best a laughable one.”

Or, LaFortune said, Medlock has “a complete failure to grasp the essence of what this type of speech is.”

“His criticism of the mayor delivering a comprehensive speech on the state of the city to the business community is ludicrous,” LaFortune said.

“I think it’s actually an insult not only to the business community but the citizenry that they cannot discern the difference between a privately sponsored, business-led setting versus a governmental setting,” he said.

A ploy? No, just a way to illustrate the difference between the way Medlock would approach his service as Mayor and the way Bill LaFortune has approached it. The point Medlock makes is one that plenty of other people have made, going back to the first time Susan Savage made a "State of the City" speech to a Chamber fundraising luncheon. I made the point at length following LaFortune's "State of the City" address last fall:

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....

...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.

In the above quote, LaFortune uses the term "Tulsa business community" as if it were interchangeable with the Chamber. But the Tulsa Metro Chamber doesn't represent the entire greater Tulsa business community any more than AAA represents all drivers, the AARP represents all senior citizens, or the OEA represents all teachers. Of the Chamber members, only a small proportion were represented at the luncheon. Most members were undoubtedly busy cutting hair, writing software, measuring inseams, manufacturing aircraft parts -- busy building a business and making a living.

At least twice during the introduction to the speech, LaFortune said that he was going to "report to" the Chamber on the state of the city. That's a phrase that implies a chain of command. Bill LaFortune may feel like he owes his job to the Chamber, but as Mayor he is accountable for the state of the city to all the citizens of Tulsa, and to the co-equal branches of City Government -- the Council and the Auditor, elected by the people of the City of Tulsa.

Medlock's promise to hold the State of the City address in the council chambers, broadcast live and open to the public, shows that he understands that the Chamber is, after all, just one private organization among many in this city, just another vendor seeking to make money through a contract with city government. Medlock shows that he understands that the Mayor is there to serve all Tulsans, not just a favored few.

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» Out in the open from dustbury.com

A question by Chris Medlock of the Tulsa City Council: When Governor Henry gives the State-of-the-State Address, he delivers it before a joint session of the State Legislature. When President... Read More

1 Comments

Truman said:

Bravo....!

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 25, 2005 12:56 AM.

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