Mayor: Medlock

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This has been a hard piece for me to write, which is why it's only now being posted. My apologies.

I endorsed Chris Medlock for Mayor in 2006, but if you had told me 18 months ago that I'd be voting for Chris Medlock for Mayor in 2009, I'd have said you were nuts. The KFAQ morning show was breaking up. The changeover resulted in the end of the almost five-year-run of my weekly segment on the show. Far more importantly, it led ultimately to the end of a long-form talk show devoted to local politics and mobilizing listeners to "stand up for what's right." While there were other factors in the tumult, Chris Medlock was at the center of it, and if he had been more willing to defer to his co-host in matters of disagreement, he and Gwen Freeman might still be on the air in the mornings and a dear friend might still be in town.

It turns out that Medlock was right when he warned newly elected city councilors in 2006 about the futility of playing nice with Kathy Taylor, the Chamber, and other entrenched interest groups, as they learned when they came under attack as soon as they began to ask questions and dissent from Taylor's line. But the way he warned them alienated those who were his allies. If it were just a matter of issues, those councilors might be endorsing him this year.

So while I acknowledge the defects in Medlock which were apparent in those and other situations and which have grieved me personally, Medlock is still the best choice on the ballot, and I'm voting for him today.

Chris Medlock is the only Republican candidate who has been and is on the right side of the important issues facing our city, the only one seems to understand the complexity of the problems the city is facing and the solutions we need to pursue. The same stubbornness that has been a hindrance in many ways has also helped him persist against the resistance of entrenched special interests.

What are the alternatives? Only three candidates have held elective office before; only two -- Bartlett Jr and Medlock -- have raised more than $40,000. Only two -- Bartlett Jr and Medlock -- have shown a base of support bigger than family and close friends.

Dewey Bartlett Jr has been on the wrong side of too many issues in recent years -- supporting at-large councilors in order to strengthen the hold on city government that his fellow Money Belt trust-funders have had for too long and to dilute representation for the rest of us. He praised and voted for a Great Plains AIrlines lawsuit settlement that appears to have been intended to cover some important personage's posterior, a settlement that resulted in a property tax increase for ordinary Tulsa citizens who were not under any legal obligation to bail out the creditors of the failed airline. He praised and endorsed for re-election Mayor Kathy Taylor, who led us into a money pit of a new City Hall and put together a ballpark deal behind the scenes, without full public scrutiny, then vilified the councilors that objected and wanted more time to scrutinize the plan. Bartlett Jr liked her performance well enough to endorse her even before he knew which Republicans would seek to unseat her. We don't need more of Kathy Taylor's leadership style.

Bartlett Jr's campaign has been devoid of content, and he has dodged one-on-one debates with his leading opponent. That tactic might carry him through the primary, but it won't work in the general against a skilled opponent who has already beaten him once in 2004, a year that was extremely favorable to Republicans.

Dewey Bartlett Jr will lose to Tom Adelson just as he lost to Adelson in 2004. An informal survey of yardsigns in Bartlett Jr's home turf of Maple Ridge and Terwilliger Heights shows about three Adelson signs for every sign of Bartlett Jr's. Adelson doesn't face a serious primary contest, and yet his supporters feel far more passionate and energized to help him win. Bartlett Jr will win District 9 in the primary, but many of his midtown voters today will vote for Adelson in November, just as they turned from LaFortune to Taylor in 2006.

Despite his famous name and massive campaign fund, Bartlett hasn't garnered the endorsement of any of the six Republicans on the City Council.

Bartlett Jr has been selling himself as a successful conservative businessman who knows how to create jobs. To me, he seems more like someone was born on third and thinks he hit a triple. Tulsa doesn't need another mayor who thinks that because granddaddy made a killing on oil, he is therefore the epitome of wisdom on economic development. By his own lawyers' statement, "despite Dewey's best managerial efforts, there was no enhancement in the value of Dewey's inherited estate..." during a period that included one of the longest and strongest bull markets in American history. His claims of creating jobs aren't reflected in the head count of his company, which seems to have remained stable at around 10.

Anna Falling has no business running for office, not with pending claims and lawsuits against herself and against her flagship non-profit, Cornerstone Assistance Network. Anna Falling says she wants to honor God with a creation display at the zoo. If Falling wants to honor God, the first thing she should do is pay her creditors, not force them to seek garnishment and asset hearings. Most of us have had financial problems from time to time, but it takes a lot of neglect to let a debt wind up in court. She's raised about $9,000 in campaign contributions, $5,000 from her own father. If she had raised it for her non-profit instead of her campaign, she could have already paid back most of the money she owed, and her creditors wouldn't have the ongoing expense of pursuing repayment through the courts. I don't know what she really thinks she's doing by running for office, but -- unless there was a burning bush and a shepherd's staff that turns into a snake as signs to confirm some new revelation -- God didn't tell her to run for office. It doesn't honor God to say that God told her to neglect her obligations and run for office.

Nathaniel Booth is a smart young man who has apparently been paying no attention whatsoever to city politics. My kids are better informed than he is on current issues at City Hall. He is intelligent and well spoken, and some day he may be ready to run for public office. Today is not that day.

The rest of the bunch -- Norris Streetman, Kevin Boggs, David O'Connor, Paul Roales, Michael Tomes, John Todd, Michael Rush -- all seem to be well-intentioned, and the first three are serious about running for mayor, but as I listen to them, it's clear that none of them grasp the complexities of leading a city government for nearly 400,000 residents.

When people describe a problem and how they would solve it, you can quickly get a sense of how capable they are of dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty in decision-making. You can see whether they grasp a problem in all its complexity and can craft a solution that will address the problem without creating a dozen more. Someone may be intelligent and yet not have kind of quality.

These candidates all seem to be possessed of the-one-big-idea syndrome. Listening to them at candidate forums is like listening to the uncle who goes on and on about politics at family gatherings. There's always one big idea, one key, and if only those politicians would implement it, it would fix everything. One-big-idea thinking has given us a fad-driven approach to addressing our city's problems, where we slavishly follow the example of some other city, without really understanding how the solution interacted with that city's peculiar qualities and how things would be different with Tulsa's unique situation. Downtown is an obvious example -- the one-big-idea approach has done more harm than good.

As I look back through mymock mayoral manifesto, I see that Medlock is in agreement with most of it. Unlike Bartlett Jr, Medlock has clear views on city issues, views that weren't just cooked up by consultants for the campaign, but that have been developed over years of direct engagement in local politics, either as a councilor or a commentator.

For all his thorny qualities, Medlock has stayed married for 30 years, through good times and bad, to Cheryl, a strong, intelligent, and likable woman. That's no easy feat, and it's to his credit (and hers, too) that they've managed it.

Comparing the 2006 campaign to the 2009 campaign shows some positive growth on Medlock's part. In 2006, he tried to run the whole thing himself and had a hard time letting go of the details. I haven't been involved in the 2009 campaign, but I've visited his headquarters, met Howie Morgan, his campaign manager, and talked with friends who have volunteered. This time around, it appears that Medlock has been able to leave the details of the campaign in the hands of Morgan and the other professionals and has focused his time and attention on the campaigning that only the candidate can do. The campaign seems to be much stronger than 2009, but it also has a bigger hill to climb -- a candidate with a quarter of a million bucks and a famous name.

Medlock is the only viable Republican candidate that offers a real contrast to the presumptive Democratic nominee Tom Adelson. An Adelson vs. Bartlett Jr race would be a battle between two residents of the Money Belt; Adelson vs. Medlock would give Tulsans the option of a mayor who grew up in the middle class, didn't have a trust fund, and doesn't live within a mile of Utica Square or belong to Southern Hills. Adelson vs. Bartlett Jr would be a yawner between two candidates who liked Kathy Taylor's tenure enough to support her re-election. Adelson vs. Medlock would give us a debate over whether to continue along the downward path of the last 20 years (and beyond) or to start in a new direction.

If elected, Medlock will have some fences to mend and some new leaves to turn over if he wants to be effective at leading the city. Still, Chris Medlock is the only Republican candidate with the intelligence and analytical ability needed to lead the city and the principles of governance to help him to lead it in the right direction. That's why I'm voting for Chris Medlock.

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3 Comments

Paul Tay Author Profile Page said:

Republicans CAN'T win in November, unless I win today. You should have endorsed Tay for Tulsa.

Bob said:

Interesting and insightful commentary as always, Michael.

I thought that the shows that you and Gwen hosted when MDG was on vacation or absent were the most interesting of any of the morning shows. Sane, rational discussion of local and other issues of the day. No histrionics. Just calm discussion. Your somewhat sonorous style complimented Gwen's bubblier radio talk jock style.

I miss Gwen on the morning talk radio program. I agree that Chris could have certainly done more to COMPLIMENT Gwen's style rather than clash with her by always appearing to outdo her as Mr. Local Policy Wonk.

All in all, I voted for Chris for Mayor. I believe that he has matured in his outlook, and is ready to be Mayor for ALL of Tulsa.

Either Adelson or Dewey, Jr. will be Kathy Taylor re dux.

Brooksider Author Profile Page said:

Good analysis. At this point it looks like Adelson vs Bartlett. Comfortable and predictable. Thank you, Mike, for your efforts to inform and educate voters. It's Tulsa's best source of local, online, political discussion.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 8, 2009 7:00 AM.

City Auditor: For Preston Doerflinger was the previous entry in this blog.

Tulsa 2009 election info is the next entry in this blog.

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