Dewey Bartlett Jr defended One Technology Center purchase

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WhatMeDewey.jpgOne of Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr's principal attacks against his rival, former City Councilor Bill Christiansen, is that Christiansen agreed to then-Mayor Kathy Taylor's plan to borrow $67 million in revenue bonds to buy the One Technology Center building to serve as a new City Hall, with the bonds to be repaid by the sale of the old City Hall and other buildings and by rent from tenants in the new building.

Bartlett Jr has numerous radio ads attacking Christiansen on this point and a mailer with a picture of Christiansen looking like a vampire and the text, "He [Christiansen] put taxpayers $67-million in debt to move City Hall into new office space.... Paying off the debt created by Christiansen will leave Tulsans strugging for operating cash for many years. The lavish spending cost Tulsa critical dollars for needs like police and fire protection."

But three years ago, Bartlett Jr was praising and defending the purchase of One Technology Center.

In January 2010, video of my 2007 speech to the city council opposing the One Technology Center deal went somewhat viral, circulating by email and on social media. At the time, there was a battle over falling revenues and budget cuts, with Bartlett Jr's administration talking about a layoff over 100 police officers. (On January 22, 2010, Bartlett Jr laid off 124 police officers.)

What grabbed people's attention about the video, I think, was how close my calculation of the extra annual operating expenses had been to the actual City Hall overrun that had been announced in August 2009. The video was used to make the point: City officials were told that the deal would cost more money, they plunged ahead anyway, and now they were paying for their shiny new toy by laying off cops and making Tulsans more vulnerable to crime.

Emily Sinovic, then a reporter for Fox 23, called to ask for my comment on the ongoing interest in the speech. She also contacted the office of Mayor Bartlett Jr. Here's a link to the January 15, 2010, Fox 23 story about the cost of operating Tulsa's new City Hall

Dewey Bartlett Jr could have taken the opportunity to denounce the City Hall purchase as a bad deal and to cast some blame at Kathy Taylor and several city councilors for adding to the city's budget woes by supporting it.

But Dewey didn't do that. Instead the Bartlett Jr's spokesperson defended the City Hall purchase using arguments similar to those Taylor used three years earlier in support of the One Technology Center deal. According to the Fox 23 story, "A spokesperson in the Mayor Bartlett's office issued an emailed statement in response to the youtube video."

Here's the statement from Bartlett Jr's office to Fox 23.

No additional taxes on citizens were required to purchase OTC. The purchase of the building was financed through the sale of $67 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds to fund the purchase, moving and modification costs. To protect Tulsa taxpayers from risk, the City negotiated a 10-year lease with Bank of Oklahoma, which guarantees $28.7 million in rent revenue over 10 years. The guarantee covers leases with Level 3 Communications and Deloitte-Touche, which continues to lease space. The leasing of vacant office space has been impacted by a downturn in the economy and less demand for Class A office space, but we are aggressively marketing and have recently shown office space to potential tenants.

By vacating the five other City buildings (old City Hall, 707 S. Houston, TFD Headquarters, Francis Campbell Council Room, Hartford Building) that were consolidated into One Technology Center, the City avoided millions of dollars in maintenance costs and capital expenditures required for those buildings.

There also are many other benefits to having the consolidated office space: improved efficiencies, reduced travel between remote sites and better energy-efficiency with lighting, healing and cooling than the former City Hall and other buildings. City offices occupy 30 percent less total space than before.

The City of Tulsa purchased the building, along with the garage and furnishings and fixtures and technological features, for $52.25 million, or about 23 percent of the building's original cost to build.

It's true: The new City Hall has been a drag on city finances. Kathy Taylor was wrong to push for it, and Bill Christiansen was wrong to vote for it. But Dewey Bartlett Jr was wrong not to stand up and object at the time of the vote and wrong to defend the idea three years later. Bartlett Jr's ads denouncing Christiansen on this issue are hypocritical, cynical politics.

MORE: Here's what I said to the City Council about the proposed purchase of One Technology Center:

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 8, 2013 7:57 AM.

Kathy Taylor and Mayors Against Illegal Guns was the previous entry in this blog.

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