Karen Keith launches her well-financed campaign

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On Sunday, former TV news reporter and anchor Karen Keith announced her campaign for Tulsa County District 2 Commissioner, a seat held since 2002 by Randi Miller.

My desire to see Randi Miller replaced is no secret. While I've applauded her efforts to return the jail to the control of the sheriff's office and her support for County Assessor Ken Yazel's budget and financial reforms, she's been a disaster on sales tax issues, on the Bixby Bridge issue, and on the management of the fairgrounds. She was even willing to lend her name to the effort to dilute democracy by adding at-large councilors to the City Council. On the City Council she had been a fiscal conservative, publicly opposing "It's Tulsa's Time," the 2000 effort to pass an arena sales tax. But since joining the County Commission, Miller has given no resistance to efforts to expand the size and scope of county government. She was even willing to jump into the Arkansas River for a photo op in support of the plan to flood the west bank and build islands in the middle of the river, something that would have cost taxpayers $600 million.

I was called a few days before the announcement by someone who, like me, publicly opposed last October's proposed Tulsa County river sales tax. This person asked if I would be willing to meet and talk about possibly supporting Karen.

I've known Karen for almost 27 years, and I like her. Way back in May 1981, I did my high school's required internship month at KGCT 41, a short-lived attempt at news/talk TV, with studios in the Lerner Shops building, on the Main Mall north of 5th St. I went along with Karen on a couple of stories, and I enjoyed getting to know her.

In 1991, we met up again when she was head of the Brookside Business Association, which was the initial focal point of the effort to stop the 39th & Peoria Albertson's. (The neighborhood was protesting the loss of street-fronting retail to a parking lot and a major commercial incursion into the residential area. That effort spawned the Brookside Neighborhood Association; I was a member of the initial board.)

In 2001, Karen was one of the founders of TulsaNow, an organization that I joined shortly after it got off the ground. Like the other founders, Karen's main focus was, in the wake of two straight defeats for arena sales taxes, to get something passed. (Many of us were more interested in land use and planning issues, which became one of the main focuses of the organization after the passage of Vision 2025.) During the Vision 2025 campaign in 2003, former County Assessor Jack Gordon and I debated Karen on a couple of occasions. More recently, she worked for the Chamber of Commerce during the recent Tulsa County river sales tax vote.

My ideal candidate for County Commissioner would refocus the county on handling the county's responsibilities, instead of trying to turn the county into a kind of metro government. Leave the business of municipal government to the municipalities, and leave them with the sales tax that municipal government depends upon. I live in District 2, and there is a necessary (although not sufficient) condition for my support: A candidate must commit to ending the Four to Fix the County and Vision 2025 sales taxes as soon as all the projects are paid for (including the Vision 2025 low-water dams) and not seeking to renew either of them or to enact a new sales tax.

From the quotes in the daily paper's story about Karen Keith's announcement, I don't think she passes the test.

"I really would like to see us bring back the cohesiveness that we had before, during Vision 2025, with the surrounding areas," she said.

"Things have gotten a little fractured, and I would like to be a part of bringing everybody back together."

A unified front is exactly what's needed to deal with the state Legislature, she said.

"Pushing as a unified body with our Legislature to seek other sources of funding (would) make some pretty dramatic changes in how that's done," Keith said.

She chose to run for a county office because of its potential to be a "big-picture position."

"Its scope is very different from the city," she said.

Driving down 15th St. today, I passed the little sandstone-sided house at 15th and Trenton and noticed a sign in front that said "Karen Keith / County Commissioner." It was a very fancy sign, the sort that would go on a lawyer's office with the intent of staying there for decades, not something you'd put on a temporary campaign headquarters. It appeared to be enamel on stainless steel. A wavy green line appeared on the sign, part of her logo, I guess.

Maybe I'm reading too much into a sign, but it tells me that Karen Keith's campaign has plenty of money to spend, that she's financed by people with deep pockets, and that passing a river tax will be one of her priorities as County Commissioner.

I like Karen Keith as a person, but I hope someone else steps forward to run against Randi Miller.

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3 Comments

David V Author Profile Page said:

Karen was the point person at Mayor LaFortune's office when the sacred penguins were shielded from city sign ordinances. Many businesses, such as U.S. Cellular, skirted sign laws by decorating penguins with their logos and anchoring them in cement right under traffic lights.

I don't trust her to oversee equitable standards in government oversight.

This may seem petty, but the fallout was that we couldn't legally police the clutter at city right-of-ways(especially at intersections).

Our current clutter of signs is as much her fault as it is Bill Lafortune's.

It's hard for anyone in Lafortune's administration to have much public confidence from the voters, but I especially single her out for a few reasons.

Rob said:

I heard a rumor that Sally Bell, the matriarch of the Bell’s Amusement Park family was going to run.

Laura Collins said:

Karen gave her support to the oversized Bomasada
apartment rezone/PUD at 39th and Rockford in Brookside. Seems like the tables have turned with regard to her position on land use. Pretending the homeowners of Brookside don't have a voice equal to that of business is a misstep on her part, as well as the promotion of the fallacy that this $30 million real estate deal is in accordance with the Brookside Task Force's Infill Restrictions. It is NOT.

I will be giving my support to Sally Bell this election and encouraging my friends and neighbors to do likewise.

Laura Collins

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 20, 2008 8:47 PM.

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