Tulsa Election 2009: June 2009 Archives

A survey firm called me yesterday evening. It was a very lengthy survey about the upcoming Republican primary for Mayor of Tulsa, and it seems likely that it was on behalf of Tulsa City Councilor Bill Christiansen's campaign for Mayor, as there were many specific questions about him, his record, and his background, but none for any other candidate.

The phone number was 304-250-3311. The agent had a slight Hispanic accent and asked for me by name. She identified herself as being with Promark Research.

There were several interesting aspects to the survey:

Susan Neal, former District 9 City Councilor and current aide to Kathy Taylor, was included in the list of options for voting in the primary.

I was asked if I approved or disapproved of the City Council as a body. This is a misguided question: The Council isn't monolithic. I generally approve of the performance of some councilors but not of others, but that response wasn't an option.

Several questions had a long list of options, from which you could pick only one. Asking to rank importance of each option probably would have produced more useful data.

"Protect property rights against zoning laws" was one of the option for "most important issue facing Tulsa." I've got to think this was garbled in translation.

The end of the survey was a combination push-poll and sensitivity test. After an initial ballot question (who would you vote for in the Republican primary for Mayor?), a series of 10 questions were read, all of which began with "If you knew that" and ended with "would that make you more or less likely to vote for Bill Christiansen?" This series was followed by another ballot question -- a way to see if any of the statements moved one's vote.

There were several items in that list that caught my attention, specifically:

b. If you knew that as a City Councilor Bill Christiansen voted against raising the assessment on property owners to finance a downtown ballpark...

Christiansen actually voted for establishing the district and the assessment back in July 2008. He voted against the assessment roll last month. See Steven Roemerman's comments on Christiansen's ballpark votes:

e. If you knew that Bill Christiansen was strongly supported by the Tulsa Firefighters Association and the Tulsa Police Officers Association...

I asked the agent whether these endorsements had been publicly announced and was told "yes." Christiansen isn't even in the race, no such endorsements have been made, and there's no such thing as the Tulsa Police Officers Association.

f. If you knew that Bill Christiansen led the fight to stop construction of the South Tulsa toll bridge which would have increased traffic on Yale and ruined a neighborhood...

It would be fairer to say that the South Tulsa Citizens' Coalition led that fight.

h. If you knew that Bill Christiansen supported a plan to require City Councilors to take unpaid days off in solidarity with city workers who are required to take eight unpaid days of furlough...

Has he actually announced this? Or is he poll-testing something he may announce, if it polls well enough?

These last two items don't exactly shine with conviction and leadership:

i. If you knew that Bill Christiansen supported Mayor Kathy Taylor's $451 million tax increase to fix our city streets...

j. If you knew that Bill Christiansen did not vote for Kathy Taylor's increase of property taxes and sales taxes; all he did was support sending the measure to the voters of Tulsa...

MORE: Tulsa resident Mike Ball writes a letter to the daily paper about the editorial condemning Bill Martinson's budget alternative:

I just read your Saturday [June 20] editorial entitled "Nuts!" and was disappointed. You seem to have the same dismal understanding of finance exhibited by Bill Christiansen when he gets that, "...help! Space aliens have stolen my brain, and I don't know what I'm going to say next" look. What part of the presentation didn't you understand?

(You can view Martinson's presentation and his rebuttal to the FOP president on Councilor John Eagleton's website.)

Continue reading to see the full list of questions. Numbering is my own. Consider all of this a paraphrase, as I could only take notes so fast.

Bryan Osborne has officially entered the race to succeed Bill Christiansen as a Tulsa City Councilor for District 8. (Christiansen is expected to run for Mayor.)

Paul Wizikowski has already announced his candidacy. Phil Lakin, CEO of the Tulsa Community Foundation, manager of Tulsa Stadium Construction Co. LLC (the sole bidder on the new downtown ballpark), chairman and trustee of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, is reported to be considering a run.

Here is Osborne's announcement press release:

Osborne Announces Candidacy for District 8 City Council Seat

TULSA, OK (6/27/09) Local businessman J. Bryan Osborne announced his candidacy for the District 8 City Council seat today.

"Public service should be about serving the public, not special interests," Osborne said. "Priorities for city government should be straight forward: well staffed and trained police and fire departments, good roads, ample sewer and flood water drainage systems, and well maintained public properties. City government needs to meet these needs and do so in a fiscally responsible manner. A good city councilor works to ensure those things get done and helps his fellow citizens to resolve issues related to city government."

Osborne, 46, believes that "elected officials are stewards of the hard-earned dollars of taxpayers and therefore have a duty to spend those dollars with great care." "If there are budget shortages, we have to find ways to trim the budget while encouraging business and job creation to increase the tax base," he said. "As a conservative, I simply do not believe that higher taxes are the answer."

Osborne is owner of the Huntington Learning Center in Tulsa, a supplemental education provider whose mission is "to give every child the best education possible." He is an active member of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, serves on the chamber's Education Advocacy Task Force and in the Oklahoma Scholars program, which is designed to encourage students in Tulsa Public Schools to make the most of their high school academic opportunities and be better prepared for the future.

In local politics, Osborne ran for Tulsa County Republican Party Chairman earlier this year, has served on the party's Executive Committee and as Platform Committee Chairman. He also currently serves as the Precinct Chairman of Precinct #173.

"Tulsa is a wonderful city and even better days are ahead. We need to work together to strengthen our community and create an even better city, not only for ourselves but for future generations."

For more information visit http://www.bryanosborne.com.

Earlier this week, Dewey F. Bartlett, Jr., who represented District 9 on the Tulsa City Council from 1990 to 1994, announced that he is running for the Republican nomination for Mayor of Tulsa. Bartlett has run for office two other times. He finished second in the August 25,1992, 54-candidate free-for-all special election to replace Rodger Randle; that election was won by acting mayor Susan Savage. In 2004 he ran for the open State Senate District 33 seat. Tom Adelson, seen as the likely Democratic nominee for mayor, won that election 51.5% to 48.5%, a 910 vote margin.

Bartlett made his announcement at the Tulsa Press Club, but the event wasn't open to the public. A friend tells me that she was told to leave by Karl Ahlgren, one of Bartlett's campaign consultants. Ahlgren is the A in AH Strategies; Fount Holland is the H. Both men used to work for Tom Coburn during his time in the U. S. House, but Coburn's principles don't seem to have rubbed off on them. The two have followed the money in recent years, working for campaigns to raise taxes on Tulsa County residents. Holland was involved in a nasty smear campaign against Republican District Attorney Tim Harris on behalf of Brett Swab, who was running against Harris in the primary.

I lived in Brookside for most of Bartlett's tenure on the Council. At the time, he seemed to be supportive of neighborhood concerns, backing Brookside's objections to commercial encroachments into the neighborhood and winning passage of an ordinance designed to hinder the proposed six-laning of Riverside Drive north of I-44. The ordinance, Title 10, Chapter 3, requires any proposal to fund the widening of Riverside or Houston to be put on the ballot as a separate proposition.

More recently, however, Bartlett has taken a number of disappointing public stances. In 2005, he lent his name to the effort of "Tulsans for Better Government" to reduce the number of council districts to 6 and create three city-wide at-large council positions. The proposal would have diluted representation for north, west, and east Tulsa. The three at-large councilors would almost certainly have come from the Midtown money belt, overrepresenting those priorities at City Hall.

According to reports of Bartlett's announcement, he has nothing but praise for Kathy Taylor's tenure. Bartlett enthusiastically endorsed Taylor's re-election prior to her decision not to run again.

At his announcement, Bartlett trotted out the usual blather about "partisan bickering," which always seems to translate to "councilors should shut up, hurry up, and do what I say." It suggests to me that he intends to treat the City Council with the same degree of contempt as the current mayor. The opposition to Taylor's budget and the ballpark assessment wasn't borne of partisanship, but it was motivated by concern for fairness and sound fiscal policy. I appreciate councilors who are willing to stand on principle, even when there's a political price to be paid, and I want a mayor who will respect council opposition instead of trying to steamroll it.

Using the phrase "partisan bickering" pretty much guarantees you won't get my support. Using it is a sign that either you haven't been paying attention or you don't appreciate vigorous public debate of the issues.

Bartlett says he wants to increase city revenues by increasing Tulsa business, not by raising taxes, which is interesting because I can't remember a tax increase he has opposed in recent years. In fact, I'm pretty sure he endorsed a couple.

Today at a Tulsa County Republican rally, I spoke to Jarred Brejcha, who is working on Bartlett's campaign. (I didn't see Bartlett at the event.) I told him that Bartlett has some fences to mend if he hopes to win grassroots Republican support. When Brejcha told me that Bartlett is open to listen to all sides of an issue and all parts of the city, I replied that what matters is whose advice Bartlett will heed when it comes time to make a decision.

Bartlett's name gives him a huge advantage, as was demonstrated in 2006, when Robert Bartlett (no relation) won the Republican nomination for Tulsa City Council District 4 without actively campaigning. Older Republicans fondly remember his father, Dewey F. Bartlett, Sr., who served one term as Governor of Oklahoma (1967-1971 -- defeated by David Hall for re-election in 1970 by two thousand votes), then served a single term in the U. S. Senate from 1973 to 1978. The senior Bartlett died of lung cancer in 1979 at the too-young age of 59.

The rumor around the rally is that Councilor Bill Christiansen will make his formal announcement a week from today. There's also a rumor that Christiansen has hired campaign media consultant Fred Davis. (I spotted Davis last Monday on United's non-stop flight from LAX to Tulsa.)

The only other announced Republican candidate is small businessman Clay Clark, aka DJ Clayvis.

MORE: Chris Medlock notices an interesting similarity between Bartlett's campaign logo and Kathy Taylor's.

gtbynum-tulsacouncil.jpgTulsa City Councilor G. T. Bynum sent out an email today announcing his decision to run for re-election to his District 9 post, rather than running for the mayor's seat left open by Kathy Taylor's decision not to run for re-election.

Bynum's decision leaves five councilors who have not officially announced their intentions regarding the mayor's race. Rick Westcott (District 2) and Bill Christiansen (District 8) have both said they're considering the race.

Here is Bynum's announcement, posted with his permission.

Family, Friends & Neighbors:

In the week since Mayor Taylor's surprise announcement that she would not seek a second term, many of you have emailed and called me with your encouragement to run for mayor. I can not convey how much it means to me that, based on my work in a brief time on the Council, you would enthusiastically entrust me with what I honestly believe is a sacred duty: managing the day-to-day affairs of the city in which we live with the people we love.

That is what drew me to run for the Council: the people I love live here, and I want the place where they live to be the best it can be. That has guided all of my decisions on the Council.

But with a rambunctious 2-year-old at home and a baby due in September, the people I love the most - our young and growing family - need me right now as a husband and Dad. Those are more important jobs to me than being mayor. I am also not so full of myself as to think I don't have anything to learn before seeking such an important public office.

I am hopeful that someone with political courage will step forward in this race, because that is what our City needs: performance audits of all departments, utility rates in line with costs, a clearly-defined and strategic partnership with the County, a second streets proposal to finish the work of the first, river development, and a bipartisan approach to governance. All of these will be tough, some of them will be unpopular, but all of them are needed. These are the issues I would have focused on as a mayoral candidate, and these are the ones I will focus on in my re-election campaign for City Council District 9.

The City Council is a tremendous opportunity for citizens to play a part in the life of our City without the taxing impact on family life that comes with the job of mayor. I love my work on the Council, and am eager to seek another term.

For all of you who have encouraged me to run for mayor, I'm honored by your faith in me.


Photo from the Tulsa City Council website.

ackbar.jpgI haven't been watching much TV lately, but I'm told that Mayor Kathy Taylor's valedictory ads, trumpeting her record as mayor, have already begun to run on local stations.

I spoke to someone this morning who has some direct, recent experience with advertising on local TV. He says there's no way you could decide on a Thursday not to run for re-election and the next day start running TV ads. It takes at least two weeks to line up air time. It also takes time -- days, not hours -- to write, shoot, and produce a minute-long commercial that is as well-done as Taylor's "I'm not running" ad. This suggests that the decision not to run was made at least two weeks ago.

His speculation is that the ads are intended to create a groundswell of support for her to reverse course and run for re-election. Taylor is benefiting from news stories reviewing her term of office as if she's already gone. Her fans on local message boards are shouting down any criticism of her performance. For the next month, she can pose as someone above the fray of politics, as her potential successors jockey for funding and support. Then she can file at the last minute for re-election, reluctantly submitting to a draft.

What's the benefit of such a scenario? Here's one possibility: Before Taylor announced her withdrawal, the question among Republicans was who would "draw the short straw," "take one for the team," and run an almost certainly futile campaign against someone able to spend a million dollars on her own re-election. You can't run for mayor and run at the same time for re-election as councilor, so it would be hard to convince more than one councilor to abandon easy re-election for a doomed effort.

But if she's out of the picture, it suddenly becomes conceivable that you could raise the funds for a successful race for an open seat. Two, maybe three Republican councilors throw their hats in the ring, thinking the odds are worth the risk. In this scenario, Taylor lines up her allies to run for those now-open council seats, then jumps back into the mayor's race at the last minute, after the councilors have already filed to run for mayor, too late to back out and run for re-election. Taylor gets back in for another term with a more compliant council that won't challenge her decisions.

Even if Taylor doesn't re-enter the race, it's almost certain that there is an anointed successor waiting in the wings, possibly someone capable of self-funding to the same degree as Taylor. This scenario could still serve as a trap, luring councilors away from seeking re-election to safe seats, putting together last minute citywide campaign teams, and finding themselves up against an experienced campaign organization ready to do battle.

In 2002, when J. C. Watts announced at the last minute that he wouldn't run for re-election to Congress, only one potential replacement wasn't caught flat-footed: His longtime political adviser Tom Cole, who went on to win the seat. Cole drew some primary opposition from Marc Nuttle, and with several months to raise money Nuttle, with his connections to national conservative organizations, could have been a formidable candidate. Instead, Nuttle had only six weeks from Watts' announcement to election day in which to decide to run, organize a campaign, raise money, and meet voters. On primary night, Cole had 60% to Nuttle's 33%.

The scenario presented by my friend was intriguing, but I'm still inclined to believe that Taylor is setting herself up to run against Congressman John Sullivan next year. It would look crass if she said anything now, while he's still in rehab, but if she waited until he returns -- beginning of July at the earliest -- it wouldn't leave much time before the city filing period for someone else to get ready to run. The "I'm rising above politics to take care of the city" approach would get her out of the mayor's race, make room for someone else to get in, without seeming insensitive.

You may wonder why I'm not taking her at face value. She can very easily run the city and run for mayor at the same time. It's not like a statewide race where you have to travel incessantly to campaign. And it's not as though she has to knock doors, call voters, and lick envelopes herself. As mayor, campaigning or not, she'll be out in the community. She could do her job and then pay her PR people and campaign advisers to spin her record and get her message to the voters. There's something else going on here, and the decision to run slickly-produced campaign ads after officially "ending" her campaign only solidifies that suspicion.

UPDATE: Rusty at the OKDemocrat forum notes media interest in the story.

Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor has issued a press release saying she will not be running for re-election. She will hold a press conference at 5:30 at the Tulsa Press Club.

More as it develops.

UPDATE 6:15 pm: Taylor spoke very briefly and did not answer questions. She spent a minute or two greeting well-wishers like Tulsa Metro Chamber head Mike Neal, Convention and Visitors Bureau head Suzanne Stewart, and Sharon King Davis.

Taylor began her remarks with a list of accomplishments: A hangar for American Airlines to keep maintenance jobs here, completing the BOK Center, coping with the ice storm of 2007, "amazing progress" on the river, the entrepreneurial spirit awards, finding mentors for 400 students, and finalizing plans for the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park before Franklin's death.

Taylor decried a focus on personalities and partisan politics and expressed hope that stepping down would help the Council do the right thing with regard to the ballpark. (Tonight is the final vote on the assessment roll for the Tulsa Stadium Improvement District.)

Taylor said the primary reason for not running was to ensure the economic viability of Tulsa. She claimed that "we've turned this city around." She said she needed to be running the city, not running a political campaign. As she makes tough budget decisions, she doesn't want a partisan political cloud over decision making.

Taylor said she had no plans for the future but would continue to pursue her passions: education, small business, and greening Tulsa.

MORE: Taylor's letter to city employees at 5:30 this evening:

Together, we have opened a world-class arena, moved city hall to a modern and high-tech new space, seen amazing progress on the revitalization of downtown, made a significant commitment to our streets infrastructure, created new education opportunities for our children and recruited hundreds of mentors for at-risk kids. We have promoted health programs, had success with our "biggest loser" wellness program and worked side by side with community leaders with the shared goal of making our neighborhoods safer.

We have launched new initiatives in the areas of energy efficiency and we have pulled resources together to honor the many veterans and military families in Tulsa. We have made city government more efficient because of your participation in High Performance Government and our green initiatives are saving energy costs in departments throughout the city. We have supported emerging businesses with our Entrepreneurship Week and Spirit Awards and thousands of Tulsans have given us their input through our city's comprehensive planning process.

All of these initiatives and many many more have culminated in a record of amazing progress for the city we love. It is a record you can be proud of and I want to personally thank you for all you have done to make it possible!

Because of the serious budget and economic challenges we are facing, the next 6 months are going to be pivotal and frankly, very difficult for our City. Tough decisions will have to be made that may not be popular, but they will be fiscally responsible- and they will help secure Tulsa's future.

I have been in public service now for 6 years -- first as Secretary of Commerce and Tourism for the State and these last years as your Mayor. Amazing things can be accomplished when private citizens get engaged in their community.

Thank you again for your hard work and for allowing me to be a part of this great team of city employees.

It is an honor I will value forever.

Kathy Taylor,

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Election 2009 category from June 2009.

Tulsa Election 2009: April 2009 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Election 2009: July 2009 is the next archive.

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