Simonson says

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UTW has an interesting cover story this week about Terry Simonson, chief of staff to Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr, written by Mike Easterling with photos by Michael Cooper.

The story begins with Simonson filing for mayor just before the deadline in 1998. I was there when it happened. I had gone to the County Election Board to file for the open District 4 City Council seat earlier in the afternoon, but learned I needed to have my declaration of candidacy notarized, so I drove over to Swinney's Hardware in Whittier Square, which had a notary in-house. When I returned to hand in my declaration, Terry was there with a couple of other people, at the other end of the counter, filling out his paper work.

Terry made a good run in 1998. He had solid grassroots support. He had been doing a good job as Republican Party chairman, taking over after a contentious period, bringing a degree of harmony and refocusing the party apparatus on the nuts and bolts of organizing volunteers and supporting candidates. In 1997, when Mayor Susan Savage and the Tulsa Metro Chamber proposed increasing sales taxes, hotel/motel taxes, and car rental taxes to build an arena, a natatorium, and a soccer stadium stadium downtown, Simonson, as GOP party chairman, was a leader of the opposition, debating Savage on TV. The measure -- known as the Tulsa Project -- was defeated resoundingly.

But by the time 2002 rolled around, Simonson had lost credibility with the grassroots. When arena supporters hijacked the Convention and Tourism Task Force in 2000, Simonson, who was co-chairman of the community outreach committee, raised no protest. Had he spoken out, we might have been able to keep the task force on track to produce a holistic approach to maximizing Tulsa's tourist appeal, rather than just a justification for yet another big-project tax package. When a near-repeat of the Tulsa Project was put on the ballot, with a more burdensome tax package than in 1997, Simonson didn't help to defeat it.

In general, the refreshing boldness that characterized Simonson in the 1990s seemed to be replaced by a cautious deference to the big players in local politics. I was one of a number of people who happily supported Simonson in 1998 who spent 2001 looking for a better candidate to back in 2002. The fact that Terry's most notable supporter was John Benjamin, one of my all-time least favorite city councilors and a prominent Chamberpot, only confirmed my gut feeling that Simonson was not the right man for the mayor's office. (My eventual pick, Bill LaFortune, turned out to be a disappointment, too. The first sign, within a couple of months of taking office, was his reappointment of Joe Westervelt to the TMAPC. The second was his allowing the city's vision summit, which had huge popular support and could have led to a PLANiTULSA-like process for a comprehensive vision for the city's future, to be diverted into a hodgepodge of unrelated public works projects.)

From the UTW profile it appears that some of Terry's boldness has returned. I believe he genuinely wants to address Tulsa's fiscal problems, but he and his boss have failed to build the kind of coalition needed to support radical change. The way you campaign affects the way you can govern. Bartlett Jr didn't talk about the fiscal mess that he needed to fix, because that meant attacking Kathy Taylor, whom he had endorsed for re-election. Instead he ran on a platform of not having contributed to Barack Obama's campaign. That didn't give him much of a mandate for the hard steps that needed to be taken. It appears that Bartlett Jr and Simonson have managed to alienate many of the leaders and officials who might otherwise have helped mobilize support for difficult reforms.

One last note: I don't really get the effort to investigate Simonson regarding the JAG grant. I wish there had been as much determination to hold decision-makers to account over the Great Plains Airlines fiasco or to pursue TDA's mistreatment of Will and Cecilia Wilkins. Those issues seem far more significant. I do, however, respect the Council's assertion of their rights as a coequal branch of government, and I'm happy that the councilors are united in defending their institutional prerogatives. It wasn't that many years ago that we had a significant number of councilors who felt that it wasn't their business to challenge the mayor on anything.

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4 Comments

The A Team said:

How do you feel about the Council's criminal violation of open meetings laws by taking a vote in executive session? Do you think criminal charges should be filed to hold them accountable for their illegal actions?

The vote was procedural, dealing with the conduct of the meeting, not substantive. The Council did nothing illegal. They have to vote, while in executive session, to terminate executive session; surely nothing illegal about that.

Do you think they did something illegal, Aaron?

Bob said:

I think Terry is a conflicted individual, in that he truly wants to do the right thing, but the local power structure, including his boss who is a junior member of the local power structure, prevents the right thing from EVER being done.

The power structure wants THEIR selfish agenda advanced, which is about preserving the status quo of their perquisites until this city's engine of government freezes up like an motor running at high speed without sufficient lubricating oil.

The oil being sales tax revenue which is being increasingly captured by the incorporated suburbs, thanks to City of Tulsa water policy which subsidizes the growth of Jenks, Bixby and Owasso.

Building an arena and new AA baseball park downtown do NOT address any of the fundamental problems facing the City of Tulsa, but they do keep the Flints, Rooneys and Kaiser grinning like chimps at us chumps.

sjt Author Profile Page said:

my problem with simonson is his attitude, comments, his actions with the TPD. it is now said he cost the city 80,000.00 for each laid off officer in training that will not come back.
the officers have been off work for months.
they have stress along with this.

i have had problems with the mayor's office before. i see no difference with this mayor.
i have had problems with the tulsa housing authority and the mayor's action line.

questions

what is simonson and bartlett's association with developers, george kaiser, business in tulsa?

why are people upset with the council when they want to know about money, budget, complaints, actions taken?

does george kaiser and the billionaires club or the democratic party have anything to do with the mayor's office? did they before? what about the river tax? what about the ballpark? the new city hall? the city hall sale? development downtown?

is george kaiser inovlved in section 8 housting that is all over tulsa? who gets the property if owners leave?

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 25, 2010 6:15 PM.

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