Eric Gomez on TMAPC? Seriously?

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"He is either totally clueless or absolutely in your face, one of the two."

"I guess he wants everybody mad at him."

"He's appointing a councilor that threatened to sue one of his constituents over a planning issue to the planning commission?"

Eric Gomez, former Tulsa City CouncilorThose were the instantaneous reactions of my lovely bride to the news that Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr has nominated former Councilor Eric Gomez to the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. ("He" meaning Mayor Bartlett Jr.)

At this moment, the TMAPC is considering whether to approve a new comprehensive plan, deciding whether to substantially approve the plan that came out of the two-year-long PLANiTULSA process or whether to remodel it to suit a couple of squeaky-wheel developers named John Bumgarner and Joe Westervelt -- developers who happen to have donated to Eric Gomez's recent unsuccessful campaign for City Council. Bartlett Jr's nomination of Gomez sends a clear message to the thousands of Tulsans who invested their hopes and energy into the PLANiTULSA process: It's going to be business as usual -- a continuation of the bad land use planning decisions of the past -- if Bartlett Jr gets his way.

Before last fall's election, I set out a long list of bad decisions by Eric Gomez during his brief, single term of office. One prime example: Approving Bumgarner's Folly -- a straight rezoning of most of a large, formerly residential block near Cherry Street, a block that is now vacant and apparently will be for a long time:

During his term of office, Eric Gomez has offered no resistance to bad development plans that set bad precedents. Now we're stuck with an ugly open lot at 14th and Utica where there used to be homes and sturdy brick apartment buildings. Gomez voted to rezone that land to OH -- Office High Intensity. It was a straight rezoning, not a PUD, so (under our outdated zoning code) there are no requirements to encourage compatibility with the investments of neighboring property owners. Gomez accepted the developer's proposal to put development conditions in a covenant, which could only be enforced by the city filing a lawsuit, rather than a PUD, which can be enforced by administrative action.

Gomez voted for the PUD for the Bomasada development on 39th east of Peoria, despite the project's violation of the very recently adopted Brookside Infill Plan, which is officially part of our Comprehensive Plan.

Both projects have been halted by the economy's decline, but we're stuck with the bad zoning decisions regardless, and the precedents they set to put development conditions in hard-to-enforce covenants and to ignore a recently crafted and adopted portion of the Comprehensive Plan.

As I wrote in endorsing Eric Gomez's defeat last November:

One of the key issues at this point in Tulsa's history, as we move toward adoption of a new Comprehensive Plan, is whether we have land use rules that are fair, clear, consistently applied, and that encourage compatible new development or whether we continue to allow developers to warp those rules and to build in ways that undermine the investments of neighboring property owners. Maria Barnes is on the right side of that issue. Eric Gomez is on the wrong side.

And as my wife noted, Eric Gomez is emphatically on the wrong side of the related issues of (a) keeping homeowners in the dark and (b) threatening to sue someone for criticizing his political actions.

While I supported Gomez in 2004, when he ran as a neighborhood advocate against the development lobby's pick -- incumbent Tom Baker -- he's changed since then. Now a developer himself, he's wholeheartedly adopted the agenda of the "build anything I want anywhere I want" development community, and he's attacked even mild, watered-down versions of the kinds of laws our peer cities use to allow change to occur in a predictable way that protects the stability and character of neighborhoods.

In answer to the question in the title of this post: No, I don't think Mayor Bartlett Jr is serious about his nomination of Eric Gomez. Gomez has at most three supporters on the council, and I suspect those three are mainly a matter of friendship rather than endorsement of his planning philosophy. This nomination is a delaying tactic, I believe, to reset the 60-day clock and prevent the City Council from appointing Al Nichols, a long-time neighborhood leader from east Tulsa who would bring both geographical and (as someone not involved in real estate or development) professional balance to the TMAPC.

A political friend of mine opined that Councilor Maria Barnes (who was beaten by Gomez in 2008 and beat him in 2009) would "show her [posterior]" over this appointment -- in other words, make a fool of herself by loudly opposing the nomination of her political rival. I disagreed. She doesn't have to say a word and likely won't. A majority of her colleagues are already well aware that Eric Gomez is the wrong choice for the TMAPC, particularly at this crucial time in the development of a Tulsa's first comprehensive plan in a generation.

MORE: Here's an example of Eric Gomez's philosophy of zoning from a 2008 candidate forum:

"Doesn't all zoning infringe on property rights, and if so, why is the idea of conservation district different from that? Why is it a further infringement on property rights that are already infringed by zoning?"

Gomez's verbatim reply: "We already regulate land use. We already regulate what you can and cannot do with your property. When people buy a property, they look at what the policies are, they understand what the zoning is, and if that should change, there has to be a--it's a fine line, I believe, between private property rights and zoning, and absent of covenants that are not easily enforceable, when you buy a property in an older neighborhood--I live in an older neighborhood--you do understand that these things may happen and it, um..." As his voice trailed off to a mumble, he sat down.

AND FINALLY: At a candidate forum last fall, Eric Gomez responded to a question (click for video) about public officials suing their constituents, as he threatened to do, but he wasn't too excited about his response being recorded for posterity.

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David said:

This mayor baffles me. He is a Republican in name only. He acts like the Democrats we have in Washington. His hidden agendas, behind close door meetings and pay offs are amazing. When will the citizens of Tulsa realize they have a buffoon for a mayor. Wow!

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 3, 2010 11:03 PM.

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