"Save Our Tulsa for our kind, dahling"

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There they go again.

Many of the same people involved in the attempt to recall Tulsa City Councilors Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock, many of the same people involved in Tulsans for Better Government (the group promoting at-large councilors) -- they're on the list of named members of a group called Save Our Tulsa, which has filed three initiative petitions for city charter changes. Someone forwarded to me an email that he had apparently received from John Brock, head of SOT, in which he outlines the proposals, explains his misdiagnosis (in my opinion) of Tulsa's ills, and lists the members of the steering committee. Here's the whole thing:

Dear Concerned Tulsa Citizen,

This is a letter to people who love Tulsa and want it to remain the best place in the world to live. It is obvious that our city government has become ineffective. We believe that our form of government is basically flawed and must be changed to have our Tulsa Government work again.

As a result of this situation, several of us have joined together to present you with an option that we believe will improve our city government structure. We have no political agenda; in fact, our group represents all sides of the political spectrum; Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. The group includes the following steering committee members: former Tulsa Mayors Robert J. LaFortune and James Hewgley, Former City Councilor Robert Gardner, David Blankenship, John Brock, Leonard Eaton, Tom Hughes, Robert Poe, C.T. Thompson, Walt Helmerich, Pat Woodrum, Joe McGraw, Jim Light, Joe Cappy, Chester Cadieux, Pete Meinig, Nancy Meinig, Paula Marshall, Shane Fernandez, Darton Zink, Ken Neal, Pleas Thompson and Bishop Donald Tyler.

We plan to make the following charter changes:

1. Add three at-large members and the Mayor to the City Council and make the Mayor the Chairman. The four will represent the broad interest of the City and not just a council district. The three at large councilors will be elected by all the voters in Tulsa but to maintain geographic diversity they must be a resident of a super district. For example at-large councilor #1 will reside in districts 1, 3 or 4, #2 will reside in district 2, 8 or 9 and #3 will reside in district 5, 6 or 7. The nine council districts will remain unchanged. With the addition of the four at-large seats, the council will then be made up of 13 members (nine district representatives and four at-large). The Mayor will not vote except in case of a tie. The Mayor will appoint the Vice Chairman from the Council. This will improve the Mayor-Council communications and create Team Tulsa.

2. Have all City elections on the same day as State and Federal elections and return all district elections to a two year cycle. This will raise interest and turnout. Currently, Council members are elected with about 10% and sometimes less of the registered voters. Also, it will permit the voters to express their opinion on how the council is doing as a whole. The current system prevents the voters from changing the policies of the City in one election. It costs twice as much money to have an election every year. The money saved will more than pay for the four new at-large councilors.

3. Make City elections non-partisan. The candidates will be able to identify themselves as Democrats or Republicans or any other way but will run against all other candidates in a non-partisan primary. The top two in the primary will meet in the general election guaranteeing the best two candidates for the general election irrespective of party affiliation. This will again increase interest and turn out.

We have created, Save Our Tulsa Inc., a 501c4 corporation. Its sole purpose is to change the City Charter to make our city government more effective. Save Our Tulsa Inc. will not promote or oppose any candidate for public office.

The three initiative petitions will minimize the problems of "ward politics" and will make the transition of the council to a more workable legislative body. The successful accomplishment of the enactment of these petitions will cost an estimated $300,000. A 501c4 corporation is permitted to accept unlimited corporate, foundation, or individual contributions.

If you are interested in making Tulsa a better city, we need your support now. Respond to this e-mail and indicate: 1. if you will permit the use of your name in a similar newspaper ad to show the voters the extent of the support for our Charter amendments, 2. whether you will volunteer to circulate the petitions and 3. Send generous financial contributions to: Save Our Tulsa, 2021 S. Lewis Ave., Suite 415, Tulsa, OK 74104.

Tulsa is a unique City. It is the best place in the World to live and raise children and grandchildren. Let us pledge ourselves, our time and our treasure to keep it that way. Please pass this e-mail on to your friends. Encourage them to join us and to respond as above. Organize your own group for our newspaper ad.

The petitions are effective today. Watch for circulators and sign up. Our website will be coming soon.

Many thanks from all of us,

John Brock

The sight of so many familiar names told me all I needed to know about the group's intentions. Their previous efforts -- recall, at-large councilors, campaign contributions -- have all involved defeating grassroots influence in local politics. These proposals, much like their previous efforts, would make it more difficult for a neighborhood leader or grassroots activist to win a seat on the City Council, more difficult for grassroots candidates to hold a majority on the council.

I get the sense that you should pronounce the group's name with an accent on that second word: Save Our Tulsa. They want to go back to a time when they and their circle of friends decided Tulsa's priorities without any input from the rest of us. I believe it particularly bothers them that most of the councilors owe them nothing and owe everything to the voters in their districts. The SOT plan would make it more expensive to run a winning council campaign, even at the district level, as candidates would be competing for media attention, volunteer time, and small-donor contributions with every other race on the ballot. To win, you'd either need to be personally wealthy or beholden to the SOTs and their pals for sufficient campaign funds.

I don't believe these people are motivated by personal profit. Are they driven by a kind of paternalistic altruism for the rest of Tulsa? Perhaps in a couple of cases, but for the most part, I don't believe they give a thought for the rest of Tulsa. I suspect that they only care about Our Tulsa -- aka the Money Belt.

A follow-up entry will take a look at the list of people cited by John Brock as SOT steering committee members, but here are a few points about the proposals:

We should move back to two-year, uniform council terms, but we should return to the fall of odd-numbered years, as it was before last November's ill-considered charter change to staggered three-year terms. Moving elections to coincide with presidential and gubernatorial elections will deprive Tulsa of the opportunity to focus attention on our city's situation and the best course for its future. With the presidency or a hot U. S. Senate race on the ballot, municipal concerns will get short shrift from the voters. You may have more people voting in city races, but you will have fewer voters who are actually paying attention to city issues. I suspect that, in the minds of the SOTs, that's a feature, not a bug.

At-large is still at-large. In the new proposal, it means that two-thirds of the people picking your representative don't live in your district. The proposed division of districts would make it possible for all three supercouncilors to live in the Money Belt -- the southwest part of District 4, the wealthier sections of 9, 2, and 8, and the southwestern part of 7. Even if you drew a superdistrict with no Money Belt overlap (say 1, 3, and 6), it would still be possible for the SOTs and their allies to find an "acceptable" resident -- parachute them in, if necessary -- in that superdistrict to push in the citywide election.

Having four at-large members of the City Council (the mayor and three supercouncilors) is likely to heighten disagreements, not reduce them. The supercouncilors, having been elected citywide, will be natural rivals for the mayor.

The SOTs are fond of claiming that "ward" politics is the source of our city's problems. I've never seen them give a valid example. The issues that have caused the most strife at City Hall have been issues of citywide importance -- budgets, zoning philosophy, water sales to the suburbs, tax increases, airport shenanigans.

Non-partisan -- no party or descriptive information on the ballot, just a name -- is a bad idea made worse by holding the election with state and federal elections, when people are thinking in terms of Democrat and Republican. Oklahoma voters already have to wrangle both sides of a ballot the size of a bedsheet. Tulsa voters will get one more ballot with five or six races on it, with only names, no helps to remember which candidate was which. A voter so confused may just vote for whoever had the most yard signs or the most TV commercials; again, the SOTs probably consider this a feature, not a bug. A better way is the multi-partisan ballot I've suggested, where candidates could list national party affiliation if the choose, or some locally significant label. A multi-partisan ballot gives voters more information, a non-partisan ballot gives voters less.

The SOTs seem blind to the real source of dysfunction at City Hall: The wrong mayor. The one we have at the moment has alienated all nine members of the City Council, including his own. If the SOTs would help elect a mayor who is:

  • independent -- not likely to be pushed around by the Tulsa Metro Chamber, the homebuilders, or other special interest groups;
  • a collaborative leader -- someone who will work with the council and citizens and seek win-win solutions; not someone who runs roughshod over anyone who stands in her way;
  • someone focused on the priorities of ordinary Tulsans -- public safety, good streets -- not the entertainment needs of the idle rich;

Tulsa city government would be just fine.

7 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: "Save Our Tulsa for our kind, dahling".

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.batesline.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/5796

It appears that the rich old SOTs, who seek to take Tulsa back from, well, Tulsans, are attempting to marshal the resources for gathering the necessary signatures to put their aristocratic propositions on the ballot. Word is that they aren't getting th... Read More

We're beginning to see components of Tulsa's establishment coalesce around certain candidates for City Council, the candidates they believe will best represent the establishment's interests at City Hall. Burt Holmes and Ben Latham have selected a parti... Read More

Analysis will have to wait, but for now, here is the full collection of C-1s, required to be filed by 5 p.m. yesterday, as provided to me by the Tulsa City Clerk's office. The only processing I've done is to merge two separate files into one and to run... Read More

This is the ninth rematch between current District 3 Councilor Roscoe Turner and former Councilor David Patrick. The series is tied 4-4, with Patrick winning in 1996, 1998, 2002, and 2008, and Turner winning in 2000, 2004, 2006, 2009. (Turner also won ... Read More

This entry post-dated to remain at top until polls close. Happy election day! Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In two districts (1 and 5), the primary will determine a winner. In all districts, the primary will determine whether we'll have good rep... Read More

A special event coming up in just a couple of hours: There are only a few competitive council races remaining for November, but the ballot will also feature charter amendments affecting the basic form of government. TulsaNow has gathered the former may... Read More

Democrat Ken Brune sent out a mailer to Republican voters in Tulsa District 4 with a list of 74 " Republicans for Ken Brune." Ken Brune seems to be liked only by an elite and elderly class of Republicans. A BatesLine analysis of the 74 names, using vot... Read More

3 Comments

The A Team said:

Tulsans Defending Democracy needs to regroup to beat back this latest coup de tat attempt by the cronies of corruption and plutocracy in Tulsa.

Grace Powell said:

I appreciate your analysis of this because at first glance their proposal seems well reasoned and intentioned. But, you make sound points specifically about the election cycle and non partisan proposals. I wish there was a more comprehensive, positive initiative I could get behind. Especially because we will need a significant grassroots organization to combat this type of money.

Bob Lawrence said:

Motto : "A Better Tulsa for the Better Class"

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 10, 2010 10:53 PM.

Democrats in key congressional races, part 3 was the previous entry in this blog.

Justice Marian Opala, RIP is the next entry in this blog.

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