Karl Ahlgren, "Working Tulsans" back Brune over Ewing

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Smear merchant Karl Ahlgren, the campaign consultant behind the current Money Belt effort to seize total control of Tulsa city government, is advocating for the defeat of Blake Ewing, the Republican nominee for Tulsa City Council District 4. Ahlgren is nominally a Republican, but he seems to support any cause or candidate that fills his bank account. Ahlgren has a bone to pick with Ewing because Ewing rejected his advances at the beginning of the campaign and spoke publicly about Ahlgren's negative reputation.

From: Karl Ahlgren
Sent: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 7:37 AM
To: Holmes Burt; Ben Latham
Cc: Holland Fount
Subject: Today's TW article on CD 4 candidates views

Blake can't help himself. In todays article he's made it crystal clear that he will be no different than the current 8-9 councilors. I've been saying this for weeks and finally he comes clean. Do we in fact want to elect another ....... or Ken Brune who will have the desire to collaborate with the mayor and his fellow councilors.

The time is now to make a difference in this election.


Ken Brune is the Democrat nominee for the District 4 seat. I'm told that the dots were inserted by Ben Latham (who forwarded Ahlgren's message to his mailing list) in place of a vulgar seven-letter synonym for gastrointestinal exit which has the same initials as Ahlgren's consulting firm. (Coincidence? I think not.) Latham is the Save Our Tulsa member who hired Ahlgren to help him fill the City Council with submissive milquetoasts.

The news story mentioned by Ahlgren is a report about the Kiwanis Club / KWGS debate
between Ewing and Brune. In response to a question about discord at City Hall, Ewing gave this response (transcribed on his blog):

Look, you're not electing people to city hall to get along. You're electing them, in fact, to argue. I think what we're seeing there is that the majority of the issues and the majority of the disagreements have very little to do with advancement of the city, or with making this a better place. They've become personal. You're putting nine people in a room from nine different parts of town, nine different ways of life, nine different backgrounds. They better disagree, and frankly, the reason we have a mayor balanced with the council is so they can check each other. So yes, I think as the leader, it's the mayor's responsibility, in many aspects, to present the big broad vision, so that everyone joins under that umbrella of hope for the city.

When it comes to the day to day politics, it's naive to expect that those ten people will always get along. That's where I think you elect the personalities to the conversation who can pursue the bigger picture at all costs and put the petty things behind us and work tirelessly on advancing the city."

In a nutshell, Ewing says our elected officials ought to bring their 10 different perspectives to the table to debate issues vigorously, without getting personal and petty. In response to a Brune mailer that takes his comments out of context, Ewing responds on his blog:

[Brune is] playing off of the community's frustration with our current representatives who are often accused (whether right or wrong) of being difficult and childish. Naturally, if one reads the whole answer or listens to the audio on KWGS, they'll find that I'm as against that negative activity and lack of progress as anyone. They'll also find Mr. Brune's naive assertion that the reason for our current discord is The Mayor and The Council's inability to find a "proper time" to "visit" or share their goals with each other. Ask anyone at City Hall if they think that's an accurate assessment or if it's just political speak.

Ewing doesn't elaborate, but I've heard from many different City Hall insiders that Mayor Junior Bartlett has all but cut off communications with members of the City Council, a pattern that began within months of his taking office. According to the same sources, even during the most contentious debates, Kathy Taylor was generally accessible to discuss matters with councilors at any time.

This week, Working Tulsans, the George Kaiser-backed 527 committee that concealed their donors prior to the primary, sent a mailer promoting Brune. Working Tulsans's pre-primary mailers bore the Oklahoma City bulk mail mark of Majority Designs, the direct mail firm run by Karl Ahlgren's partner Fount Holland. This pro-Brune Working Tulsans mailer has a Tulsa bulk mail permit instead, but the style is the same as the pre-primary mailers.

Ken Brune or Caspar Milquetoast?(Reminder: The median home size of contributors to "Working Tulsans" is 5,007.5 sq. ft. and median home value is $691,050.)

In the debates in recent years over taxes for special projects, we've heard over and over again (from the sort of people who are funding Working Tulsans) how important it is to offer fun and exciting entertainment options to help Tulsa attract and retain young people who are creative and entrepreneurial. It's crucial, we've been told, to Tulsa's future. We want our kids to come back after college and raise our grandkids here.

So along comes Blake Ewing, a young entrepreneur who has created a half dozen businesses employing over 100 people, with more in the works, helping to revive downtown as a fun place to be any night of the week. He's worked on a number of city task forces to promote Tulsa retailers and deal with important city issues, and he has a good working relationship with the mayor. He has even (to my chagrin -- one area of significant disagreement) supported Vision 2025 and the river tax (although he believes this would not be a good time for a tax hike).

But instead of endorsing this young, positive, energetic entrepreneur -- the epitome of the kind of young Tulsan they say we want to attract and retain -- George Kaiser and his allies are backing a submissive milquetoast.

I've emailed Alex Eaton, chairman of Working Tulsans (also the president of my high school class), and asked him to explain their criteria for candidate selection. I'll pass his response along as soon as it arrives.

My theory: George Kaiser doesn't want any leader on the Council other than Phil Lakin, trustee of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, and G. T. Bynum, former Washington lobbyist for the George Kaiser Family Foundation. They want everyone else on the council to be a reliable follower, without the initiative or intelligence to challenge anything coming from Lakin or Bynum. Blake Ewing is bright, energetic, and inquisitive, not afraid to look for better ways to do things, not afraid to ask tough questions (but politely), not afraid to poke holes (pleasantly) in silly ideas. Kaiser and his allies want a council full of dullards who will do things their way without question.

How sad for Tulsa! Why not just post a sign at the city limits that says, "Creative, energetic entrepreneurs not wanted."

MORE: Since I invoked his name, here's a collection of Caspar Milquetoast cartoons at James Lileks's wonderful Institute of Official Cheer.

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mark said:

Good job, Michael.

We got the audio version of this attack on our answering machine today (including the Kiwanis audio clips).

The Democrat and Independent living in our home are all-in for Blake. I don't honestly see how anyone could support Brune unless they believe a Bronze Star is a prerequisite for success in local government service.

I believe that many of the Kaiser/Working Tulsans/SOT gang are well-intentioned; and I welcome their involvement in local civic discourse. However, what I can't abide among these players is a certain impatient paternalism that causes them to attempt to "end-run" a pluralistic democratic process through overwhelming financial support and unseemly negative campaigning.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 6, 2011 10:27 PM.

Non-partisan elections: Can't tell the players was the previous entry in this blog.

Tulsa Election 2011: AGAINST all propositions is the next entry in this blog.

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