The previous City Council: The real deal

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It's no surprise that the Tulsa Whirled continues to spin its revisionist web about the last two years at City Hall as a way to vindicate itself and to try to intimidate the incoming Council. With a little more free time on his hands, recently former City Councilor Chris Medlock does an able job of rebutting the Whirled's assertions with reality.

Unable and unwilling to debate the Council reformers on issues, the Whirled and the entrenched special interests painted a portrait of lies, and through frequent repetition they got their readers to believe it. It's the same phenomenon I described in my Thursday, November 24, 2005, column:

That sort of accusation by implication happens a lot at City Council meetings, but with reform-minded City Councilors as the target. The accusers are city officials who find themselves being asked polite, reasonable questions that they’d rather not answer. To deflect attention from the substantive issue at hand, they complain that they’re being bullied or browbeaten. The daily paper duly reports the baseless complaints, which gives their editorial board a chance to wheeze out a few paragraphs deploring the behavior that didn’t happen.

I challenge anyone to point to one example of rudeness from those two men -- name the date and the occasion. I never saw it or anything approaching it.

The Whirled editorial that Medlock rebuts is about Tulsa's water policy. It was the belief of a majority of the City Council that the City of Tulsa should reexamine its policy concerning water sales to the suburbs. Instead, the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority and Mayor Bill LaFortune rushed to commit the city to 40-year sweetheart deals that were not necessarily to Tulsa's advantage. At the same time, suburban developers financed a campaign to break the Council majority through the recall of the two councilors their polling told them were most vulnerable.

Oklahoma City charges outside-the-city customers from 25% to 75% more than inside-the-city customers. Meanwhile, Tulsa sells water wholesale to outside customers at the same price city residents pay -- $1.98 per thousand gallons. Medlock and Mautino and the other councilors thought Tulsa ought to be smarter about how it handles water sales.

Owasso is certainly smart -- they buy water from Tulsa at the same price Tulsans pay, then they mark it up and pocket the profits to pay for municipal services. Owasso's city manager, Rodney Ray, raised a ruckus because some wise Tulsa councilors were talking about doing something for Tulsa's benefit that might cut into his profits.

Someone over on the TulsaNow Forum (currently broken due to Microsoft web server issues) wondered recently about using water revenues to make up Tulsa's likely budget shortfall. Chris Medlock and Jim Mautino wondered about that, too. For their trouble their reputations were trashed, and they and their families were put through a recall ordeal that lasted nearly a year. They've been falsely accused of being rude, mean, impolite -- all adjectives that better fit their accusers. To the TulsaNow forum poster who wondered about that, where the heck were you when these two forward-thinking councilors needed your support? And are you going to be there for the new city councilors when they get flack for thinking outside the box?

As I mentioned earlier, the Whirled's aim with this editorial is partly vindication, partly to warn the incoming councilors not to cross them. This editorial was published for the same reason that King Edward Longshanks had William Wallace's head displayed on a pike on London Bridge -- pour encourager les autres. supplicedusieurfoulon.jpg

There's a mythology surrounding councilors of the past who were savaged (and Savaged) by the political and media establishment. The myth says that those councilors somewhat deserved the trashing and bashing they received -- they pushed things too far or too fast, they didn't choose their battles carefully, they were inflexible, they were unwilling to compromise.

A new councilor will be tempted to think, "If I'm just smart -- like they weren't -- I'll get positive things done for the City, I'll emerge without a scratch, and everybody will like me." Lady and gentlemen, if you do the job you were elected to do, if you faithfully seek the best interests of the citizens of Tulsa, you will get trashed. You will get trashed by powerful and entrenched interests who don't care if a policy is good for Tulsa as long as it's good for them and their cronies.

As for the temptation to distance yourself from the legacy of Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock -- just remember that six of the nine of you were elected because you were more like Chris and Jim than your opponents were. Your opponents got money from the same people who tried to give Medlock and Mautino the boot, and you beat them. Your opponents complained about bickering at City Hall, and you beat them. If you aren't getting any pushback at all from the Whirled, the Chamber, the Public Works Department, or the development lobby, we're going to assume you aren't doing the job we sent you to do.

Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock have a proud record of achievement during their too-short time at City Hall. West Tulsa is getting a new superregional shopping center which will bring in sales-tax revenues from residents of Tulsa's rapidly growing south and west suburbs. For the first time in nearly 20 years of the City's contract with the Chamber, there's real oversight of how that $2 million a year gets spent. We have a city-specific economic development plan. We're going to get a new comprehensive land use plan. We have an ethics ordinance in place, so that conflicts of interest are properly disclosed and handled.

District 6 and District 2 are getting long-overdue infrastructure improvements. Charter changes are now in place to protect homeowners from arbitrary rezonings, to avert another wasted year on a frivolous recall effort, and to ensure that appointees to authorities, boards, and commissions face regular review by our elected representatives.

All of that happened because Chris Medlock and Jim Mautino and their allies were willing to push those issues and to take some heat as a result, but also to compromise enough to get majority support and a mayoral signature. What more might they have accomplished without the distraction of a recall election?

By all means, learn from their mistakes, but don't ignore their many successes. Build on those successes.

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Michael Bates has taken the time to reply to the Tulsa World's Sunday editorial which criticizes the work of the the former City Council, attempts to justify its grossly inappropriate actions in trying to recall two excellent councilors (Jim Mautino... Read More

3 Comments

Joseph Wallis said:

I just wish you were more critical of the GOBs that were left in the council...namely Christiansen. There is one guy that definitely hasn't stirred up anything from the World or the development lobby. Oh wait, maybe that's because he IS IN THE POCKET of the development lobby.

XonOFF said:

Excellent presentation here on this.
Worth the while for every Tulsan to read.

Roger Fischer said:

A more appropriate name for the Tulsa World is the Tulsa WART.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 11, 2006 12:01 AM.

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