Mayoral flashback: When Bartlett didn't blame Taylor for the Tulsa budget mess

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Here is the monthly sales tax news release from Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr's office, dated February 5, 2010. This is two months after Bartlett Jr was sworn in, just shy of three months after he was elected mayor in 2009.

Please especially note the final paragraph, which I've highlighted in bold. It's very interesting in light of recent ads claiming that his predecessor (whom he endorsed for re-election) drove Tulsa to the brink of bankruptcy.

MONTHLY SALES TAX, USE TAX COLLECTIONS
FROM MID-DECEMBER TO MID-JANUARY

The preliminary report from the Oklahoma Tax Commission regarding sales tax collections for the City of Tulsa have now declined 11 consecutive months including the last eight months of declines averaging 11 percent.

According to the preliminary report, sales tax collections from mid-December to mid-January totaled $17,771,635, a 9.8 percent drop from $19,696,317 for the same month last year. Use taxes, which businesses and others pay on purchases of equipment from out-of-state vendors, were above budget estimate at $1,598,877. From the same period a year ago, use taxes have declined by 7.8 percent or $135,619.

"As expected, we are continuing to see sharp declines in our sales tax revenues. Our combined receipts for both sales and use tax are slightly lower than our revised budget expectations,"Mayor Dewey Bartlett said. ''With the $10 million reduction to our general fund, we will continue to monitor expenses closely until the end of the year."

The General Fund portion of sales and use tax totaled $1.34 million for the month, a little less than $100,000 lower than our revised budget expectations.

Mayor Bartlett added, "It should be clear that the economic problems that we are experiencing are the result of declining revenues due to the national recession, not any express actions by the current or previous administrations. Both the Bartlett and Taylor administrations have collectively reduced our annual expenses by $25 million."

Maybe it just took Bartlett Jr another year or so to realize how badly his predecessor (whom he endorsed for re-election) mismanaged the city's finances.

After all, it wasn't until inauguration day that Bartlett Jr figured out that there was a budget crisis at all, even though the woman he endorsed for re-election decided not to run in order to devote her full attention to it, and even though she invited him as Mayor-elect to shadow her at any meetings on her schedule, offered to provide him briefings on critical issues, including the budget crisis, and provided office for him and space for his staff at City Hall during the month-long transition.

Bartlett will be installed as Mayor on Dec. 7. In the meantime, Bartlett and his transition team will begin to deal with the most pressing issues, with the City's budget problems at the top of the list.

"There is a lot of hard work ahead - this current budget crisis is unprecedented. The finance team and I are ready to get started," said Mayor Taylor. Mayor Taylor plans to brief Bartlett on the current state of this year's budget, and the issues which will need to be considered regarding next year's budget.

"We have an office set up for Mayor-elect Bartlett. He can occupy the office as soon as he would like and we will provide space for other staff as well," said Mayor Taylor.

Each department has drafted a summary of its staff and budget as well as issues to be addressed.

"I will be personally briefing the new mayor, as soon as he is available, on all the issues I am handling that need to be transitioned to the Mayor-elect," Mayor Taylor said.

The Mayor-elect will be invited to attend all management meetings, as well as attend any meeting on Mayor Taylor's schedule. Her staff has prepared a list of events and dates for which the Mayor's presence has been requested after her term ends.

(Both Taylor and Bartlett Jr deserve blame for financial mismanagement, specifically for running up the budget during flush times, forcing painful cuts when revenues shrank. Taylor also refused to deal seriously with concerns raised by then-Councilor Bill Martinson, seeming to treat him as an adversary who needed to be crushed like a bug, rather than an ally in the cause of fiscal sanity.)

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5 Comments

Roy said:

Some folks may have taken exception to Mike's 28Aug post. Recall that he observed he did not trust either mayoral candidate, that both had done foolish and (gasp) evil things.

Even with proof of perfidy provided in today's post, many of those folks will nevertheless remain unpersuaded. In particular, neither candidate will do the honorable thing: acknowledge error, learn from it, and grow. Meaning: both figure they can continue the pattern, that no one (or at least not enough voters) will call them on it.

Graychin said:

Tulsa's heavy reliance on sales taxes condemns it to boom-and-bust revenue cycles aligned with the overall economy. It needs a rainy-day fund like the State has. Would that be allowable under present law?

Graychin said:

It was clear that Bartlett was going to be a disastrous mayor from day one.  Taylor had been shouting from the rooftops about the fiscal crisis, but it never penetrated the Bartlett Bubble.

I guess Bartlett thought that listening to a Democrat was beneath his station.

Tulsa voters established a rainy-day fund by charter in the November 2010 election, with exactly that purpose in mind.

Jay Casey Author Profile Page said:

Taylor now has an ad out touting her years of struggle and giving. But it's hard for me to feel much for a person that has treated her employees so badly over the decades. Ask anyone who has worked for her. I had the displeasure of working for her and I can tell you two things; 1) her management style can best be discribed as "drive-by management" (akin to drive-by shooting) and 2) she is smart, but only half as smart as she thinks she is.

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