Bartlett Jr's first year in office

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This week's Urban Tulsa Weekly cover story, by reporter Mike Easterling, is a look back at Dewey Bartlett Jr's first year as mayor of Tulsa. Easterling spoke to the Mayor himself, to chief of staff Terry Simonson, to several city councilors, to urbanist and developer Jamie Jamieson, and to me. What's striking is that only Bartlett and Simonson give good grades overall to the Bartlett-Simonson administration. Five of the nine councilors, all Republicans, were willing to speak on the record, and all were disappointed, on balance, particularly with his failure to treat the councilors as partners, rather than adversaries. These are councilors who had high hopes for his administration and who agree with his stated policy goal to make intelligent reductions in city spending. As I note for the article, he has managed to alienate all nine city councilors, an unprecedented feat for a mayor.

In his conversation with Easterling, Bartlett tells an anecdote about the literal nightmare he had the night after his swearing in, followed by the waking nightmare of learning the next morning from Finance Director Mike Kier of the depths of the city's financial crisis. What it reveals is that Bartlett had not been paying attention. Councilor Bill Martinson had called attention to the problem back during the budget process in the spring of 2009, noting the Taylor administration's overly optimistic expectation of a recovery by the end of calendar year 2009, an expectation that allowed them to postpone hard choices until after the election.

For his honesty and persistence, Martinson was targeted for defeat by Kathy Taylor. Bartlett did not back the fiscal conservatives on the Council in their effort to face facts; instead he endorsed Kathy Taylor for re-election and ignored the fiscal crisis during his campaign. In so doing, he entered the mayor's office without the mandate to do anything except not make political contributions to Barack Obama.

The Save Our Tulsa bunch -- SOTs for short -- see the conflict between mayor and council, and they think the solution is to pack the council with their kind of people and then maybe pass a tax for some new "visionary" project. They've misdiagnosed the problem, and they offer a remedy that will only make matters worse. The problem is in the mayor's office, and, short of resignation or removal, the way forward is for the mayor to call his SOT buddies and his supporters who are suing the councilors personally and tell them to back off. That's a minimum first step to get executive and legislature working together again.

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4 Comments

Roy said:

Bartlett got elected via name recognition in contrast to identifiable position. He has not changed, still having no identifiable position. Means he owes his office to money, not people. Hence one should not expect him to take the step you recommend, Mike.

Bob said:

I'll sum up Dewey, Jr.'s first year as Mayor in two words:

Epic Fail.

He's done what no earlier mayor has ever achieved:

United ALL nine city councilors against him:

Republican and Democrat; Liberal and Conservative; Black, Brown and White; Rich and Poor.

Epic Fail.

Why? He listens to the Money Belt archons, and their paid paladins, like Shyster Attorney Joel Wohlemuth who is billing the city for $millions.

And, Dewey's become a Metro Tulsa Chamber of Corruption sock-puppet politician:

Echoing their and the Tulsa World's agenda about the need for three At-Large City Councilors to "solve" all this dissension between the Mayor and City Council.

And, now he's talking up "River Development", which we know is Chamber of Commerce code words for another sales tax for a "Visionary" project.

Dewey, Jr. = Epic Fail.

Dewey, Jr. will make three one-term Tulsa Mayors in a row.

Epic Fail.

Joel Burkhart said:

Michael,
Not to disagree with you but wasn’t it the Firemen’s union that ran Martinson out of office for pointing out fiscal problems and that the city was getting the same old police and fire departments now for twice the money. And didn’t three police captains get the acrimony and lawsuit ball rolling accusing Bartlett and Simonson of lying while they were trying to tap dance their way through those federal grants to save some police jobs. As a fiscal conservative, Bartlett should have just whacked 200/300 jobs out of the police and fire and been done with it. It looks to me that these public service unions are way more than a match, even for our conservative Republican city government.

Anonymous said:

I don't think anyone knows who Dewey really is. Some of the achievements for which he pats himself on the back (i.e. the police helicopters, the freeway lights) are things that he vetoed when council sought to fund them. He has run the city as a banana republic, truly believing that he can do anything he wants whether or not he has any support on council. For all his bluster about the City Charter, I really don't think he's read it or he's relying on a bad interpretation of it (the Council Attorney position comes to mind, it falls under Article II, Section 4).

I work at City Hall and I can say that the mayor's biggest problem is that he has surrounded himself with high-level people who can't seem to work in any government body without finding trouble.

I think of his chief of staff, who ran into conflict with Tulsa County when he was there and Jim Twombly, who was fired from Broken Arrow and, prior to that, left Pella, IA under a cloud of suspicion. Add to that, the fact that the Tulsa Community Foundation (which if you look at the board of trustees is a who's who of millionaires and trust-funders) is giving him a travel slush fund, paying for some of his employees (Chris Benge) and are the primary sponsors of the KPMG study (which, was a joke, no one doing the "study" even bothered to ask departments about enabling statutes and the entire study was weighted toward what the Mayor's priorities were--Mayor Bartlett even allowed TCF to put their "two cents" in before the study was released). Now he has the interim City Attorney, who retired ten years ago under a dark cloud--it just seems that the Mayor is looking for trouble and that at best he just runs with a bad crowd, at worse, he's one of the crowd.

In any case, I appreciate what you do on this site, Michael and hopefully, my anonymity is not a problem, since I work at the Borg Cube, I prefer not to give my name.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 29, 2010 1:48 AM.

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