Tulsa Election 2011: A win for Ewing, a beatdown for at-large

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A weird election season has come to an end. Tulsa voters have emptied out the City Council and turned down two radical plans to remake city government (while embracing two ill-considered modifications with bigger impact than voters appreciate).

After the polls closed, I collected results from precincts along the southern tier of District 4. Of the seven locations I personally checked, Ken Brune won only two -- 65 and 156 -- precincts in the heart of the Money Belt that pushed him over the top in the primary, but he won only by slim margins. It was apparent that Republican Blake Ewing would win by a handsome margin. I headed to the historic Church Studio at 3rd Street and Trenton Ave. for Blake Ewing's watch party.

During his victory speech Ewing explained why he chose the venue for his victory party:

"I chose to have it here, because this is one of those hidden gems in Tulsa. This place sat mostly empty for a very long time." He drew an analogy between the studio and Tulsa itself. "It's had this great, beautiful history, and then somewhere along the way it may have lost its way in some places. And the effort of creative, energetic people brought something special back to life again.... I appreciate what the Miller family has done with the Church, and I hope that on a much grander scale we can do that with our city, that we can see its potential and choose to raise the bar across the board, and that as a community we will work towards that together."

Blake surprised me with a very gracious shout-out for my work here at BatesLine during this election season. I found it especially touching because he gets why I do what I do, and one of the things I most appreciate about Blake is his commitment to honesty and transparency, exemplified by his willingness to talk about political machinations that are usually hidden from public view.

"Michael is an asset to our community in that he's a voice that continues to seek out the truth and continues to call things on the carpet for being unjust or for being vague or shady or anything other than transparent. And so I'm proud to call Michael a friend, proud to have had him on our team, and I hope that that same sort of attitude will start prevailing in our city -- that the things that happen behind closed doors or that happen because elite folks pull strings that the rest of us can't -- that we turn the tide as a city and that regular folks like you and I can trust in our government and trust in the future of our city."

(I've posted this here for my own sake, because once in a while, I can use a word of encouragement.)

I was happy to have a small part in helping Blake as a volunteer for the campaign. My five-year-old and I helped him on Saturday by knocking doors in our neighborhood, and from the beginning of the campaign, long before I endorsed him, Blake would call from time to time to use me as a sounding board (as did other candidates in the District 4 race).

The other result that greatly pleased me was the defeat of the at-large council proposal by a 3-to-1 margin. Hopefully that's driven a stake through the heart of a very bad idea.

The rest of the council races went about as planned, with the candidate of the dominant party winning by a 3-to-1 margin in each district, with one surprising exception: District 3, where Republican Dave Bell came within about 140 votes of beating off-and-on Councilor (and off-and-on Democrat) David Patrick. Perhaps the anti-incumbent sentiment damaged Patrick, too, although he took advantage of it in the primary.

I was sorry to see non-partisan elections pass. It was close enough that organized opposition might have been able to defeat it. In combination with the change in election dates, non-partisan ballots will add to the challenges that grassroots candidates face in getting their message to the voters.

The move to put elections in the fall of even numbered years won a bit more support, but one wonders if people understood the gist of the question. News outlets didn't seem to get it. Fox 23's results crawl described the proposition as "term limits" (not even close), while KOTV News on 6's story said it "reduces council terms to two years" and "restored the terms set out in the 1989 charter." That's partly true -- terms will end and elections will be held in even-numbered years, as in the 1989 charter, but in the fall, coincident with federal elections, not in the spring as was the case from 1990 through 2008. It seems that even the newsfolk did not grasp the salient feature of the proposition -- holding city elections with federal elections, rather than have a special time set aside to focus on and debate local issues.

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2 Comments

Josh said:

Blake's right. I may not always agree with your politics, but I always appreciate your insistence on honesty and transparency. Not to mention your abundant love for our city.

Keep fighting the good fight.

Bob said:

At least for the next two years, the local ruling elite (through their proxy the Metro Tulsa Chamber of Commerce), the Save Our Tulsa Swells, King Kaiser and his connected cronies, the Shusterman's and Samson Oil, and the Lorton's World are ensured of voting control of our city council government.

From their primary wins, the Tulsa World figured out that they did not need to invest any more print capital in an endorsement of the proposal for three At-Large city councilors. They were achieving what they desired without backing a loser proposition.

This group of despicable greedheads should be very pleased with the election results of their hand-picked candidates, with their successful gerrymandering of the Districts to ensure 20% new precincts for most of the incumbent insurrectionists courtesy of the craftiness of Karl Alghren, and the complicity and duplicity of Daryl Woodard and Molly McKay who approved the council district changes, and finally the massive funding of council candidate campaigns.

By my count, only one probable reform-minded candidate was elected (Ewing), and one usually reliable reformist incumbent retained (Henderson).

I would be willing to bet money that 2012 will see a resurrection and re-packaging of the Kaiser River Tax II, to be funded by a increase in our local sales tax to the stratospheric level of at least 9.00% on the dollar.

With the whole-hearted endorsement of the city council, Mayor Dewey Junior, and all local mass media who see the largesse of a large advertising campaign to pass a new city sales tax.

Any bettors?

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 8, 2011 10:51 PM.

Tulsa Election 2011: General election day was the previous entry in this blog.

Texas TSA overreach (and underreach) is the next entry in this blog.

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