Tulsa Election 2009: August 2009 Archives

Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor, who ended her campaign for re-election early this summer, raised and spent more money on her non-campaign than any of the candidates seeking to replace her.

Steven Roemerman and I worked together to sift through the pre-primary campaign reports, and he has posted a spreadsheet summary of campaign contributions and expenditures.

Taylor raised $539,309.69 and spent $348,745.00, over a period from December 10, 2007, to August 24, 2009. The report did not break down expenditures by date.

Taylor's reported contributions included $50 on March 4, 2009, from District 5 Republican candidate Chris Trail, who at the time still listed his residence as 7306 W. 35th St., outside the city limits west of Tulsa. Taylor's husband, Bill Lobeck, returned the favor, donating $500 to Trail.

Dewey Bartlett Jr was second among mayoral candidates, raising $286,243.05 and spending $155,659.72.

Tom Adelson raised $196,896 and spent $109,690.30.

Chris Medlock raised $47,572.62 and spent $45,684.06.

Mark Perkins, an independent candidate who will be on the general election ballot, raised $24,477.35 and spent $4,644.69

Norris Streetman, Kevin Boggs, and Clay Clark (who did not file to be on the ballot) also filed reports, but none raised or spent more than $5,000. No other mayoral candidate filed a report.

More detail to follow later this evening.

Anna FallingLast Sunday the Tulsa World ran a story on information discovered in their background checks of candidates for City of Tulsa office. The paper missed some interesting information; thus this series.

The subject of today's post is former city councilor and Republican mayoral candidate Anna Falling. The World story mentions three cases, but there were two more, one from last year, one from last month, that escaped their notice.

In the weeks since she announced her campaign for mayor, Anna Falling or her Tulsa Cornerstone Assistance Network have been the subject of two garnishment summonses, one relating to an indebtedness lawsuit from earlier in the year, one (issued last Friday) relating to a recently filed small claims case. Also last Friday, an asset hearing was ordered in one of the cases. A breach of agreement lawsuit filed by ONB Bank against Falling, Falling's husband, and Tulsa CAN remains pending; it appears to involve Tulsa Cornerstone's mortgage and a failure to maintain insurance on the mortgaged property.

Here are links to the OSCN docket files for the five cases with a timeline of key events for each:


  • April 5, 2004: Case filed.
  • May 26, 2004: District Judge Russell Haas ruled in favor of the plaintiff and against Falling "in the sum of $1,982.01 plus interest, costs, and $690.00 attorney fees."
  • July 14, 2004: A garnishment summons was issued to Communication Federal Credit Union.
  • October 14, 2004: Judge orders hearing on assets
  • December 10, 2004: Hearing on assets held. Falling doesn't attend or send an attorney. "NO ONE FOR THE DEFENDANT. BENCH WARRANT AUTHORIZED."

SC-2008-10673: C It All Leak Detectors & Plumbing Inc, Plaintiff, v. Tulsa Cornerstone Assistance Network, Defendant.

  • June 30, 2008: Case filed.
  • August 12, 2008: At the hearing, Tulsa Cornerstone Assistance Network was not present. Judge Charles Hogshead grants a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff, $285 plus court costs plus 10% attorney fees.

CS-2009-564: TULSA ADJUSTMENT BUREAU INC, Plaintiff, v. CHRISTOPHER D BEACH, Defendant, and ANNA L FALLING, Defendant.

  • January 22, 2009: Case filed.
  • July 27, 2009: Garnishment affidavit filed.
  • July 29, 2009: Garnishment summons issued.
  • August 27, 2009: Hearing on assets application filed.
  • August 28, 2009: Asset hearing ordered for October 2, 2009.


The Tulsa World story described this as a "foreclosure petition" and quoted Falling's husband, Chris Beach, who is executive director of Tulsa Cornerstone Assistance Network, as saying that the organization "took a 'time out' on the organization's mortgage... but have since made it up."

The OSCN docket report says the case against Falling, Beach, and Tulsa Cornerstone Assistance Network is still pending.

  • April 29, 2009: Case filed.
  • May 4, 2009: Summons served on defendants.
  • May 5, 2009: Beach wrote a letter to ONB Bank officers:
  • As the executive director of the Tulsa Cornerstone Assistance Network, I write this letter to you on behalf of the board of directors. We would like to ask if we can give you $5000 this week, $5000 the next, bring our insurance up to date the following week, and then offer you $2000 a month from now until the loan is paid off in full. We would like to negotiate a fair interest rate and an option to pay the mortgage off in full without penalties.

  • May 8, 2009: Beach wrote a follow-up letter to the same ONB Bank officials:
  • Thank you Byron [Perry of ONB Bank] for calling me back yesterday regarding our proposed solution. I am sorry you could not accept that offer.

    We will go seek to raise the additional $7000 you want up front immediately. We would like to ask if you can give us an extra 20 days to raise the additional $7000. If agreeable to this, we will go ahead and provide to you the first two $5000 payments this next week, followed by the insurance policy re-established, all within the original 20-day period.

  • June 2, 2009: C-It-All Leak Detectors & Plumbing, Inc. "expressly disclaims any right, title or interest in and to that certain real property which is the subject of the case." This company was the plaintiff in the 2008 small claims case. Does their listing as a defendant in this case and filing of this disclaimer of interest indicate that they had a lien on the property in question relating to that earlier case?

SC-2009-12187: Gregory Miller, Plaintiff, v. Tulsa Cornerstone Assistance Network, Defendant.

  • July 24, 2009: Case filed.
  • August 14, 2009: Judge Millie Otey finds in favor of the plaintiff, who is awarded $635 and court costs.
  • August 28, 2009: Garnishment summons issued.

Children anticipate December 25 with excitement. I get excited about 5 p.m. on the 8th day before a City of Tulsa election. You can learn a lot about a candidate from his campaign contributions and expenditures, and you can often discern patterns in the giving of frequent individual contributors and political action committees (PAC).

I plan to be down at the City Clerk's office as the deadline approaches and will, as I have in elections past, post a summary of the campaign disclosure filings for mayor, council, and auditor as soon as my fingers can type it. Watch this space!

The League of Women Voters of Metro Tulsa will hold candidate forums on Tuesday, September 1, 2009, for the five Tulsa City Council districts for which there are primary elections. The forums will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

District 2 (Rick Westcott, Bart Rhoades): McClure Elementary, 1770 E. 61st St.

District 4 (Rocky Frisco, Eric Gomez; Maria Barnes, Liz Wright): Fellowship Congregational Church, 2900 S. Harvard Ave.

District 5 (Bill Martinson, Chris Trail): Schusterman Benson Library, 3333 E. 32nd Pl.

District 6 (Jim Mautino, Tadd Weese; Mario Choice, Dennis Troyer): Martin East Regional Library, 2601 S. Garnett Road.

District 8 (Bill Christiansen, Scott Grizzle, Phil Lakin): Hardesty Regional Library, 8316 E. 93rd St.

I won't be able to attend all of these events, but I'd love first-hand reports (with audio or video, if possible). If you'd like to be a volunteer stringer for BatesLine, or if you plan to cover one of the forums on your own blog, send an e-mail to blog at batesline dot com, and let's coordinate our coverage.

In a comment on a previous entry, commenter John R. poses an intriguing set of mayoral criteria and a question:

Avoid candidates with these qualities/ambitions:

1) Running the City like a business. It is not, and trying to do that has not improved it

2) Legacies. Mayor Taylor has several. The need for them is questionable, the cost high. Good government is all the legacy anyone should want

3) Political/value labels. Local politics rarely allows high-minded political posing. It is down & dirty getting things done. At the end of the day, you have to wash them off pretty good to tell the blue from the red

4) Making public safety the only issue. That indicates ignorance of the scope of the City's responsibilities. Do we sacrifice clean water for more police? How much sewage do we dump in the river to hire more firemen?

5) Type A personalities. They like to command but not listen. They never reverse a Custer decision.

So who is left?

"Good government is all the legacy anyone should want" would make an excellent motto for the official seal of the Mayor of Tulsa.

Feel free to make the case for your candidate in the comments below.

The Tulsa Area Republican Assembly, a conservative Republican organization affiliated with the National Federation of Republican Assemblies, has endorsed Chris Medlock for the Republican nomination for Tulsa mayor at their nominating convention this morning.

The group's rules require a positive vote from two-thirds of its members, so in several races they made no endorsement. With several conservative candidates in the mayoral primary, it wasn't a sure thing that any one candidate would be able to get the required two-thirds. With no runoff, there is a danger that the long list of conservative candidates will split the conservative voters that constitute the majority of the Republican primary vote, allowing a non-conservative candidate to sneak through with a tiny plurality and capture the nomination. The Republican Assembly endorsement convention is as close as we will get this year to a "conservative primary."

Prior to the endorsement vote, the assembly heard from most of the long roster of Republican candidates. Dewey Bartlett Jr had promised to attend, but as with Monday night's After Five Republican Women's Club candidate forum, a Bartlett Jr campaign rep called the night before to cancel.

Here is the list of Republican Assembly endorsements for the September 8, 2009, primary:

Mayor: Chris Medlock
Auditor: Preston Doerflinger
District 4: Rocky Frisco
District 6: Jim Mautino
District 8: Bill Christiansen

On his Tuesday, August 25, 2009, appearance on KFAQ's Pat Campbell Show, Dewey Bartlett Jr denied (sort of, sputteringly) endorsing Kathy Taylor for Mayor over incumbent Republican Mayor Bill LaFortune in 2006, an endorsement that has been reported as fact, without contradiction, by mainstream media outlets several times during this campaign. He also seems to have changed his story on why he endorsed Taylor for re-election this year. His 2009 endorsement of Taylor is undeniable, as his photo and a quote appeared at the top of the Republicans for Kathy website.

Steven Roemerman has the story, and he provides the money quote from a Tulsa World story following Bartlett Jr's campaign announcement:

Even though Taylor -- who has decided not to seek re-election -- is a Democrat, Bartlett [Jr] backed her 2006 mayoral campaign, and she asked him to co-lead an analysis and gather public input before last fall's Fix the Streets package was assembled. He said he would not have run if she had campaigned for a second term.

Bartlett [Jr] said he will not be concerned if people consider him an extension of Taylor's leadership.

With the Kathy Taylor's Borg Cube (aka One Technology Center, aka new City Hall) running a $1.26 million deficit this fiscal year (and a balloon payment looming in just three years, with no nibbles so far on our 1969 City Hall or the other city lands that Taylor's handpicked real estate firm is trying to market), Taylor's leadership isn't looking so hot right now; maybe that's why Bartlett Jr is backing away from Taylor to the degree consistent with documentary evidence.

Roemerman also notes something else funny about the shifting reasons Bartlett Jr is giving for his endorsement:

He endorsed the Democrat before finding out if a solid GOP business man would be running. City Councilor Bill Christiansen wanted to run for mayor and was going to do so until Bartlett [Jr] got in the race and announced he would be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. This caused Christiansen to balk. Christiansen is a very successful businessman. Why did Bartlett [Jr] have to support Taylor over Christiansen?

Bill Martinson was another potential mayoral candidate who, like Christiansen, has built a successful business, which is something neither Taylor nor Bartlett have done. Why not at least wait until the Republican field was set before endorsing an incumbent Democrat with some bad decisions on her record? Bartlett Jr's answers so far aren't satisfactory, and he seems to know it.

While Taylor worked in the corporate world for a time, her massive wealth was the result of marrying into it, not building it as part of growing a business. Bartlett Jr, from what I've been able to learn, inherited a family business and has managed to keep it going, but so far I can't find anything to indicate that Keener Oil & Gas Co. has grown under his leadership. (I stand ready to be corrected.) In fact, I seem to recall that early in his campaign, his ads referred to him as a successful businessman who knew how to create jobs. On KFAQ, he simply claimed to "have business experience."

I've got more to say on a related topic: The way the massive amount of inherited wealth in Tulsa distorts lifestyles, political arguments, and perceptions of success. Inherited wealth isn't a bad thing per se, and in fact it has kept Tulsa's economy afloat during economic hard times, but the body politic may need some corrective lenses as a result of its abundance here.

Sometime late Monday morning, a friend called to let me know about the first hour of Pat Campbell's show. I didn't hear it live -- I didn't turn on KFAQ until 7:45, in time to hear the interview with Chris Medlock -- but I listened later in the day. I understand I had an invitation to call in, and if I'd heard it when the show was live, I'd have done so.

As a writer, I take it to heart when it's apparent that I failed to communicate my meaning clearly. In trying to ensure that I cover all my bases and qualify my statements to be as precise as possible, it can happen that the core of my message gets lost in all my words. The blog entry at issue weighs in at more than 1800 words; if I'd had more time to edit, perhaps I could have been more concise.

So here are the highlights of my late Thursday night blog essay, in response to Pat Campbell's comments from Monday, and a few other notes.

1. There is a question mark at the end of the entry's title. This is a headline device often used over an opinion column to indicate that the statement preceding the question mark is being doubted or questioned in the column. When Pat quoted the title on the air, he made the title sound like a statement of fact rather than a question.

2. I supported Pat's point that political advertising on a radio station is not going to sway a talk show host.

3. I estimated how infrequently Pat has dealt with the mayoral election since the filing period, based on the descriptions on the podcast site. I supposed that this might be a cause for dissatisfaction for many listeners.

4. I assumed (wrongly, as it turns out) that Dewey Bartlett Jr. hadn't been on the air since late June because Bartlett Jr. (or his handlers) refused to let him come back on. Pat said that Bartlett isn't ducking KFAQ, but he [Campbell] had been "blowing [Bartlett] off" because he had more important issues to cover last week.

I took a look at the hourly show summaries for last week from the The Pat Campbell Show podcast site. Plenty of important content there, but I could see a number of topics that could well have been deferred in favor of a very timely call-in session with the presumptive front-runner for the Republican nomination for Mayor of Tulsa, with the primary less than three weeks away. Perhaps a candidate in next year's governor's race can wait until we've got the city elections (in two weeks) out of the way.

I am happy to hear that Bartlett will be on the show this morning during the 8 o'clock hour. That hadn't been announced when I posted my blog entry late last Thursday evening. I didn't hear it mentioned on Friday either.

4. I didn't write that divorce should be an automatic disqualifier for a candidate. Here, in part, is what I wrote:

While it's true that divorce and remarriage have become very common in the Christian community, devoutly religious Oklahomans still take marriage vows seriously....

Even someone without a religious faith who has ethical standards will judge a divorced person's character based on the context of the divorce. Someone who dumps the mother of his children for a trophy wife will be judged far more harshly than someone who leaves a drug-addicted spouse who refuses to get help.

I have voted for, volunteered for, and endorsed divorced and remarried candidates, but the context and circumstances of the divorce matter to me and a lot of other voters.

Chris Medlock made the point, during his segment with Pat on Monday, that many voters care whether a candidate is the aggrieved party in a divorce or the aggrieving party. Two lawyers, a conservative Republican who specializes in family law and a liberal Democrat, himself divorced and remarried, took time to let me know they think I'm right about this: The context of a divorce can often tell you something about the character of a person.

I know many people who were divorced against their will, because their spouses wanted their "freedom." Others have divorced reluctantly because their spouses were a danger to them or their children. That's very different from the middle-aged man who says to himself, "Now that I've accumulated a degree of wealth, status, and power, I deserve something better than the old frump who bore my children, so I think I'll trade her in for a sportier model."

It does seem odd that a conservative radio talk show host would argue that as society changes our views of a topic like divorce should change with the times. What other marriage-related moral standards should conservatives abandon because the rest of society has abandoned them?

5. Bartlett Jr's divorce is not the "only thing [I've] got on him," much less the most important thing. In the admittedly long-winded entry in question, I brought up Bartlett Jr's endorsement of Taylor, despite her support for Michael Bloomberg's gun-grabbing mayors' coalition and for local implementation of the Kyoto Treaty. I brought up Bartlett Jr's support for the Great Plains payoff, which ripped off Tulsa taxpayers for the sake of keeping the local big shots who put this rotten deal together out of hot water. I could also have raised his support for making the City Council less representative by replacing three districts with three at-large councilors. Many of Bartlett Jr's political positions over the last few years have been in support of keeping the same incompetent bunch of people in power in this city. I can't think of a single-time in recent years that he has spoken in opposition to unnecessary big-ticket projects or tax increases.

6. KFAQ has played an important role in helping Tulsa voters understand how power works in Tulsa and how to reform the system so that it works for all Tulsans, not just a favored few. I've been involved in local politics continually since 1997 and, before that, off and on since 1988. KFAQ brought issues to the fore that the local powerbrokers would just have soon kept quiet, and it challenged the stream of misinformation coming from the establishment's PR machine. It made networking possible between people with different but related causes and concerns, helping us to build coalitions for reform that would never have happened otherwise.

7. This is an important election. As someone who grew up in this city, I want to have a mayor who applies conservative principles to city government. At the very least, I want the Republican nominee to espouse conservative ideals, even if he falls short in the general election.

Can Bartlett win against Adelson? In the 2004 State Senate 33 race, Bartlett had the best coattails a Republican could hope for. Bush won by 8 percentage points in the district, but Bartlett fell short by 3 percentage points.

8. We didn't lose in 2006 because conservatives criticized Bill LaFortune. We lost because LaFortune turned his back on the conservatives who backed him, and he didn't correct his course and reach out to the grassroots until the final week of the general election campaign. If Republicans don't thoroughly vet our nominee, the Democrats will do it for us after it's too late to make another selection. (Remember Chad Stites?)

Earlier today District Judge Jefferson Sellers ruled that an initiative petition seeking a charter amendment to make Tulsa city elections non-partisan is invalid.

The petition, circulated in 2008 by the group Tulsans for Better Government, was challenged by City Councilor John Eagleton on two grounds: That the petitions lacked a warning against false signatures that is required by state law to be on all initiative petitions, and that the number of signatures submitted fell short of the requirement of 25% of the vote in the last general election.

34 O.S. 3 requires (emphasis added):

Each initiative petition and each referendum petition shall be duplicated for the securing of signatures, and each sheet for signatures shall be attached to a copy of the petition. Each copy of the petition and sheets for signatures is hereinafter termed a pamphlet. On the outer page of each pamphlet shall be printed the word "Warning", and underneath this in ten-point type the words, "It is a felony for anyone to sign an initiative or referendum petition with any name other than his own, or knowingly to sign his name more than once for the measure, or to sign such petition when he is not a legal voter". A simple statement of the gist of the proposition shall be printed on the top margin of each signature sheet. Not more than twenty (20) signatures on one sheet on lines provided for the signatures shall be counted. Any signature sheet not in substantial compliance with this act shall be disqualified by the Secretary of State.

Only one of the signature sheets submitted to the Tulsa City Clerk had the copy of the petition attached and that copy lacked the required statutory language. There was no evidence that any of the other pamphlets had a copy of the petition with the required language. Eagleton, in his filing, cited Community Gas and Service Company v. Walbaum, 1965 OK 118 (case citations omitted):

The warning clause is just as essential to guard against and prevent fraud, deception or corruption of the initiative and referendum process as are such other indispensable requirements of the statute as (1) the pre-circulation filing of a copy of the petition required by 34 O.S. 1961 § 8 ; (2) timely post-circulation filing of the petition in compliance with 34 O.S. 1961 § 8 ; and (3) the execution of a circulator's verification prescribed by 34 O.S. 1961 § 6 .

Eagleton's second point, involving the number of signatures, is a bit complicated: City Clerk Mike Kier used the April 1, 2008, voter turnout as the basis for the required number of signatures, which he determined to be 3,427. 12,985 votes were cast for Prop. 1. 13,065 votes were cast for Prop. 2.

Eagleton argued that the last general election at which every voter in the city was allowed to vote was on April 4, 2006. 77,341 votes were cast in the mayor's race, so that an initiative petition would require 19,336 signatures to make it onto the ballot. Only 6,675 valid signatures were submitted by Tulsans for Better Government.


While voters in every precinct could vote on two charter change proposals in 2008, that was a special election; only the voters in five city council districts had a general election. The distinction is backed up by the ballots distributed to voters: If you lived in council districts 1, 2, 5 or 7, your ballot was headed "SPECIAL MUNICIPAL ELECTION" and had only the two propositions. If you lived in districts 3, 4, 6, 8, or 9, your ballot was headed "GENERAL MUNICIPAL ELECTION" and had the city council race followed by the two propositions. (Click on the images above to see a full photographs of the ballots for districts with no council race and for District 3. These photos were taken of the ballots that are stored along with the certified results in the files of the Tulsa County Election Board. Many thanks to Patty Bryant and her great team at the Election Board for their assistance in accessing records of past elections.)

By contrast, on April 4, 2006, every voter in the city received a "GENERAL MUNICIPAL ELECTION" ballot. (Click the image below to see the ballot that was used for voters in council districts 1, 2, 7, and 8, where there was no council general election. There was a general election for mayor and auditor, as well as a special election to decide six charter change propositions.)


Eagleton's arguments won the day. Eagleton's filing in the case cited Neidy v. City of Chickasha, a 2008 Oklahoma Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that special elections could not be used to determine the number of required signatures. (Emphasis in the original.)

The use of a special election to determine the sufficiency of signatures on a referendum petition offends the Oklahoma Constitution.

What constitutes a qualifying general municipal election was addressed by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in Belisle v. Crist, according to Eagleton's petition:

The Court also determined that a preceding general municipal election in which all voters were not eligible to participate should not be considered, only the last general municipal election where all qualified municipal voters could vote and only qualified municipal voters could vote. (Emphasis added.)

The Tulsa World today, on page A-14, presented a summary of information turned up during background checks of the candidates for Tulsa city offices.

Some of the information had been reported previously -- Eric Gomez serving alcohol to a minor in 1993 and being arrested for public intoxication in 1997; Rick Westcott's tax liens; Paul Tay and his inflatable genitalia; Chris Trail's long list of personal, financial, and legal troubles.

There was some new info, too, in the World's story, but there were also many other cases that the World's story failed to address. (It's easy to miss court cases if you don't think to look for name variations. More about that in a separate entry.) In fact, there's so much additional information that I'm not going to try to cover it all in one entry. So here's part 1.

Bart Rhoades, the challenger in District 2, is currently in bankruptcy (09-11516-R, filed on May 21, 2009).

But the World's story missed some significant court cases involving Rhoades.

My search of the Northern District of Oklahoma Bankruptcy court database revealed two additional bankruptcies -- a Chapter 13 bankruptcy (89-03839-W) filed on December 14, 1989, and a Chapter 7 bankruptcy (90-03200-W) filed on October 22, 1990.

Oddly, the filing in Rhoades' current bankruptcy case shows more assets than liabilities. He has a home (his residence as listed on his candidate filing) valued in the filing at $140,000, with $49,000 listed as the "amount of secured claim." (If I understand it correctly, this is what he owes on the mortgage. He has a firefighter's pension of $14,000 per year; a note on p. 15 says "Debtor owes his ex spouse 50% of his Firefighter pension." He lists $29,442.27 in unsecured claims, including $13,334 in student loans, about $9,500 in credit card debt, $976.11 in medical bills, $2,735.33 related to a lawsuit brought by Gary D. Underwood, and $2,374.63 owed to "paterson realtors." (That amount appears to be the result of this small claims case that Patterson Realtors brought against him in 2007.) His occupation is listed as greenskeeper for "jsj, inc." with an address corresponding to the LaFortune Park golf course.

According to District Court documents available online, Rhoades did not appear for the Patterson lawsuit. A garnishment summons was issued, but according to the bankruptcy filing, he didn't make enough money to have his salary garnished. A case involving Capital One also involved a garnishment summons to the Tulsa County Clerk's office, returned for insufficient earnings. And yet another case, brought by Gary D. Underwood, resulted in a garnishment order to Midfirst Bank. The three lawsuits were brought in 2008, 2007, and 2008 respectively. A 2005 breach of contract suit brought against Rhoades by OU in Cleveland County District Court was settled later the same year.

Rhoades also didn't show up earlier this year when he was sued, along with other defendants, in a case brought in 2007 by Connie K. Harl. Rhoades was charged with violating the Residential Property Condition Disclosure Act. The default judgment against Rhoades was vacated as a result of his bankruptcy.

The online information for that case is incomplete, and if the amount of the judgment was large enough, it may explain why Rhoades filed for bankruptcy instead of selling his house and paying off the debts that he listed.

Rhoades is backed in his campaign by the Firefighters' Union. The union is targeting Rick Westcott because he wanted time to take a closer look at Bill Martinson's budget proposal, which arose from Martinson's analysis of the growth of public safety's share of the city's budget. According to Martinson's analysis, police and fire departments now consume all of the revenue generated by the 2% general fund sales tax. Westcott has also been outspoken about investigating possibly fraudulent claims of EMT and paramedic certifications -- certifications that qualify a firefighter for extra pay. Westcott has also had a target on his back for opposing several of Mayor Kathy Taylor's initiatives and board appointments.

There's an echo here of 2008, when the local establishment recruited an opponent for Jack Henderson to punish him for his effective opposition to the 2007 county river tax increase. His opponent, Emanuel Lewis, had been sued in small claims court for an unpaid medical bill, failed to show up on his court date, and had his wages garnished to pay the bill. From my March 12, 2008, column:

The Lewises failed to appear in court date on Jan. 24, and Judge Charles Hogshead ordered them to pay $868.74 to Tulsa Regional Medical Center, plus attorneys' fees and interest. On Feb. 15, a garnishment affidavit was served on Great Plains Mortgage, Lewis's employer.

Creditors generally go to great lengths to settle unpaid bills before they involve the courts. That someone seeking public office would let an unpaid bill go to court, then fail to appear in court, then fail to pay the judgment, casts serious doubt on the candidate's judgment and personal responsibility.

Likewise, in this year's District 5 race, Bill Martinson, the City Council's number-cruncher, has been targeted for defeat, apparently by forces that would prefer not to have a grown-up on the City Council. Their champion in this race, Chris Trail, moved into the district from outside the city limits on the other side of town just in time (or possibly not) to file for the office, and has a string of legal problems, which the World reported early in the campaign: an arrest on food code violations, a restraining order filed by his wife, tax liens, and a bogus check charge. Nevertheless, Trail has hired a big-time political consultant, Karl Ahlgren, has put out some very professional-looking campaign materials, and had a fundraiser hosted by a Dollar Thrifty executive. When he first sent me a Facebook friends request back in July, his list of about 60 friends included several close associates of Mayor Kathy Taylor.

There seems to be a pattern of financially troubled individuals being recruited to challenge councilors who show too much intelligence and independence.

Westcott has had some financial troubles of his own. He wound up with more taxes than he could afford to pay as the result of his 1998 divorce, and so he initiated a voluntary payment plan with the IRS and the Oklahoma Tax Commission. His state tax debt has been paid in full; he is still paying down his federal debt.

Westcott did the responsible thing and found a way to pay his bills, with interest. Bart Rhoades's three bankruptcies give a different impression.

On Friday, Republican mayoral candidate Chris Medlock challenged Dewey Bartlett Jr. to debate issues one-on-one "anytime, anywhere." Medlock and Bartlett Jr., both former city councilors, appear to be the leading candidates in the race for the Republican nomination for Mayor of Tulsa. From Medlock's press release:

Dewey Bartlett [Jr.] does not mention one issue on his website. Conservative Republican Chris Medlock is the only candidate who has placed a series of videos stating his positions on issues facing the city of Tulsa including fighting crime, fixing our streets, and getting back to the basics of city government. They are available on both his webpage and on a YouTube Channel.

Medlock stated, "If Dewey lacks the confidence to defend his positions on twice endorsing Democrat Kathy Taylor and then voting to give $7.1 million of taxpayer dollars away to Kathy's friends in the Great Plains Airlines Scandal, how can he ever back up his ads that claim that he is a conservative to the Republican Party?"

Medlock continued, "I am dedicated to getting the voters the information they deserve and confident of my knowledge of the critical issues facing our city. That is why I have stated my positions on specific policies facing the city of Tulsa on my web site. And I will contrast my conservative values against his left of center positions anytime, anywhere."

Rather than respond personally or even talk directly to a reporter, Bartlett Jr. sent out a prepared statement, according to a story in the Tulsa World:

But Bartlett, a former city councilor and president of Keener Oil & Gas, indicated in a prepared statement that a debate with Medlock is not needed.

"I've attended two candidate forums, both put on by the Republican Party, where I have publicly delivered my message, defended my platform and debated the issues," he said. "Media was present and reported from both events at the Tulsa Republican Club and the Tulsa Republican Women's Club."

Bartlett Jr. has appeared at two mass forums (the Republican Women's Club was one of them) in which he was either given the questions ahead of time or all candidates were asked exactly the same questions. He has not appeared on talk radio to field questions from the listeners, has not appeared at a forum to take questions directed to him, has not appeared in a debate situation where he could be asked questions by his opponents.

I have been told that Bartlett Jr.'s handlers ask three questions when his presence is requested at a public or media event where questions might be asked:

  1. Will we have the questions ahead of time?
  2. Will the same questions be asked of every candidate?
  3. If we say no, will the event go ahead without Bartlett Jr.?

This is the sort of thing we saw with the river tax and Vision 2025 vote -- the same people running Bartlett Jr.'s campaign ran the vote yes campaign for both elections. They would refuse to send a speaker to an event if the vote no side was to be allowed to participate, and it was a rare media outlet or civic group that refused to be held hostage by the vote yes side.

The Bartlett Jr. campaign's behavior shows that they don't have any confidence in their candidate's ability to answer tough questions. The PR people must think the real Bartlett Jr. is too unappealing and inadequate to risk giving the voters too much direct exposure. Seems to me that if a candidate was getting this kind of advice from his handlers, if he had any guts, any self-respect, he'd ditch his handlers and step up to the debate challenge, not cower behind an image spun out by a PR consultant.

The Oklahoma Channel (Cox Cable Channel 3) is doing a series of eight-minute interviews with the candidates for Tulsa mayor and posting the interviews on YouTube. John Erling asked the following questions of each candidates (my paraphrase) -- most candidates got most of the questions, but there was some variation.

  • Tell us about your professional background.
  • What motivates you to run for mayor?
  • What would you write in a job description for the job of mayor?
  • What skills are most important to be mayor?
  • To complement your strengths and weaknesses, what skills would you seek for your appointed positions?
  • Give us an example from your work background that would apply the role from mayor (management or project leadership).
  • What do you see ahead for the City of Tulsa in the next five years, and how are you planning for that future?
  • What would be the most immediate challenges you would address in your first three months as mayor?
  • What are Tulsa's most important assets?
  • What have been the city's successes in the last four years?
  • What would you say to a CEO considering bringing 600 jobs to Tulsa?
  • Does it make a difference whether a mayor is a Democrat or a Republican?
  • Is it important to have a good working relationship with the Chamber of Commerce?

So far five interviews have been posted:

Nathaniel Booth
Kevin Boggs
Anna Falling
Chris Medlock
John Todd

I was listening to the Pat Campbell Show on 1170 KFAQ this morning. He spent about four minutes at the end of the 7 a.m. hour talking about people who think he's "in the bag" for Dewey Bartlett, Jr., the candidate for mayor who endorsed incumbent Democrat Kathy Taylor for election in 2006 and for re-election this year, before she dropped out of the race. Campbell poked fun at the notion that the number of ads purchased by the Bartlett campaign on the station would influence his choice for mayor. As he correctly pointed out, he doesn't have anything to do with any ads other than those that carry his endorsement. (Here's a direct link to Pat Campbell's 7 a.m. hour for August 20, 2009. The clip in question begins at 28:53 and runs to the end.)

I suspect that most people who are dissatisfied with Campbell's coverage of the city election understand that he has no control over the ads. In fact, as I understand it, broadcast stations have to offer their lowest rate to political candidates, displacing more lucrative ads for, say, a bank or a retail establishment. I doubt that political ads are highly coveted by broadcast stations.

The dissatisfaction I think has more to do with the relative scarcity of coverage of the city elections as compared to KFAQ's morning show in years past. Looking back over his online archives since the filing period, I see 12 hours with some reference to the Republican mayoral primary out of 71 hours online that involved Campbell, which means, on average, he talked about the race once every other day. Possibly skewing the stats: Campbell took a week off, some hours are missing from the archive, and it may be that mayoral politics came up in an hour, but it wasn't noted in the archive description.

Of those 12 hours, two involved Anna Falling's publicity event involving the proposed creation exhibit at the zoo. In two of the 12 hours, the mayoral discussion involved interviews with candidates with very little support. For two of the 12 hours, Campbell was schooled by his listeners on the significance of Bartlett's praise and TAIT board vote for the Great Plains Airlines giveaway after he downplayed its importance. Another hour was spent with Terry Simonson, who has endorsed Bartlett and who is the spokesman for the Tulsa County Commission.

There's some silly speculation that Campbell is taking it easy on Bartlett because he hopes to have him on as a guest if he wins the mayor's race. I give Pat more credit than that. Pat Campbell has been around long enough to understand that if someone won't come on your show when he's a candidate, when he has the strongest incentive to reach out to your listeners, he certainly won't bother once he's safely in office.

Bartlett hasn't been on KFAQ since June 29. Toward end of that interview (about 14:20 into the podcast of Pat Campbell's June 29, 2009, 8 a.m. hour), Bartlett's first and only appearance on the station as a candidate, Campbell complained about Kathy Taylor's ongoing refusal to come on his program and expressed hope that Bartlett would be back. Bartlett gave his word -- starting at 15:50 -- that he would give Campbell the accessibility that he seeks. And at the very end of the interview (about 20:00 in), Campbell said, "Let's get you back again soon. Maybe next time around we'll throw open the phones, take some calls as well." Bartlett's reply: "Pat, it's been a real treat to get to know you, get to know your listeners, and I guarantee I'll be back."

Bartlett hasn't been back, and it's surprising that Campbell hasn't called him out on breaking his promise. In years past, KFAQ listeners were accustomed to hearing the morning host challenge a politician who was avoiding the show and dodging tough questions. Campbell has often denounced the practices of his predecessors -- he did again during his interview with Bartlett -- but many Tulsa voters appreciated having someone in a position of influence using that platform to hold politicians to account for their words and deeds. It's why KFAQ's morning show surpassed the erstwhile king of the morning airwaves.

Courtesy and civility are much to be desired, but slavishly seeking them at the expense of truth and transparency can turn you into an enabler of evasive politicians, even if you don't intend that result.

A question for Mr. Campbell: You say that politicians avoided KFAQ because your predecessors were discourteous to them. You've been as nice as you can be to Dewey Bartlett, Jr., so why is he avoiding your program? Is it possible the pols who wouldn't come on the air with your predecessors were really just trying to avoid accountability? Is it possible that Dewey Bartlett, Jr., is doing the same thing?

There are a lot of tough questions that Bartlett seems to be avoiding.

Bartlett voted and spoke in support of Mayor Kathy Taylor's scheme to put Tulsa taxpayers on the hook for paying Bank of Oklahoma $7.1 million that the City of Tulsa did not owe. Back when Mayor Bill LaFortune tried the same thing, Chris Medlock was part of a coalition of city councilors that blocked his efforts, despite persistent wooing of the councilors by BOk officials.

Bartlett not only endorsed Democrat Kathy Taylor for election in 2006, he endorsed her for re-election this year, despite her heavy-handed, non-collaborative leadership style and her unilaterally putting the City of Tulsa on the record against gun rights and in support of climate junk science. Taylor joined New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's mayors' coalition that sought to eliminate the Tiahrt Amendment and to boost lawsuits against gun manufacturers. I'm sure that Pat Campbell, a fervent supporter of the Second Amendment, understands the chilling effect of those efforts. Taylor also pledged that Tulsa city government would implement the provisions of the Kyoto Treaty, an extreme economy-killing document that not even Bill Clinton tried to ratify.

Why would Bartlett, who claims to be a conservative Republican, endorse the re-election of a mayor that put Tulsa's name on the line in support of such left wing causes? Even if a radio talk show host isn't moved by local issues, these are national issues that speak to a candidate's ideology and character. If you don't like the mushy moderate RINOs in the U. S. Senate, wouldn't it bug you to death that the GOP standard-bearer for mayor of your city might be cut from the same cloth?

An exchange between Pat Campbell and a caller to the program last week may also have fueled the "in the bag" speculation. In the third hour of the August 13 show (starting at 22:57), Joe Conner raised the issue of family values, complaining that Bartlett is representing himself as a strong family man despite his divorce and remarriage: "Bartlett is pushing family values, but yet he's a divorced man." In response, Campbell loudly made light of the issue, saying that we have pastors in town who have divorced and remarried and suggesting that any concerns about a candidate's marital history belong to 1955, not 2009. ("Do you have a calendar, Joe?") After quickly cutting Conner off, Campbell asked his producer to "clue me in [about callers], say 'East of the Rockies, East of the Rockies,'" an allusion to Art Bell's "Coast to Coast AM," an overnight radio talk show devoted to X Files-type material. The implication was that Conner must be wearing a tinfoil hat to want to talk about Dewey Bartlett's divorce.

While it's true that divorce and remarriage have become very common in the Christian community, devoutly religious Oklahomans still take marriage vows seriously. The Roman Catholic Church, of which Pat Campbell and Joe Conner are both adherents and in which Dewey Bartlett, Jr., was raised, regards marriage as permanent and indissoluble, and those who divorce and remarry are forbidden to receive communion. (See this discussion on the website of the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb. Protestants who take a less sacramental view of the Lord's Supper may not appreciate the eternal implications of excommunication for a Catholic.) Many evangelical churches will exclude divorced men from leadership. In the conservative Presbyterian Church in America, only adultery, abuse, and abandonment are considered valid scriptural grounds for divorce, and in the PCA congregation to which I belong, members who have abandoned their families for a new relationship have been excommunicated and leaders in that situation have been kicked out of office and excommunicated.

Even someone without a religious faith who has ethical standards will judge a divorced person's character based on the context of the divorce. Someone who dumps the mother of his children for a trophy wife will be judged far more harshly than someone who leaves a drug-addicted spouse who refuses to get help.

I have voted for, volunteered for, and endorsed divorced and remarried candidates, but the context and circumstances of the divorce matter to me and a lot of other voters. It says something positive about a candidate if his ex-wife endorses him enthusiastically. On the other hand, in the 2004 Illinois Senate race, voters abandoned Barack Obama's leading Democratic primary rival, Blair Hull, and the Republican nominee, Jack Ryan, because of their ex-wives' sworn testimony about their character and conduct. And I will never again support Newt Gingrich for public office because of his acknowledged pattern of sleeping with wife N+1 while still married to wife N.

Dismissing and ridiculing the divorce issue as loudly as he did undoubtedly gave some listeners the impression that Pat Campbell was trying to protect Bartlett from potential political damage.

Over the years, KFAQ listeners have come to expect in-depth, serious discussion of local issues, grounded in a clear moral sense of right and wrong, and pointing toward effective action -- "standing up for what's right." What they're hoping for, I believe, is a strong daily focus on Tulsa's city elections, particularly the race for mayor in our strong-mayor form of government, a thorough examination of the records of the leading candidates, and a chance to confront the leading candidates with tough questions.

About a year ago, during the Tulsa County Commission District 2 Republican primary race between incumbent Randi Miller and challenger Sally Bell, Pat Campbell rightfully chided me for predicting that Miller wouldn't show up to a debate with Bell. She did, and Campbell did a fine job of conducting a debate between the two. If he would arrange a head-to-head debate and challenge the two* leading Republican mayoral candidates to participate, it would give KFAQ listeners (current and former) the kind of substance they're seeking, it would demolish any suspicion that the station or the host is trying to protect Bartlett from scrutiny, and it would make for some lively and fascinating radio.

*NOTE: I will provide my rationale for this conclusion in a later post, but it's my sense that of the Republican primary contenders only Bartlett and Medlock have built a support base beyond immediate family and close friends.

Republican voters are being overwhelmed with automated polling calls about the Tulsa mayor's race, according to complaints received by the Tulsa County Republican headquarters. Who is responsible? Chris Medlock says it isn't his campaign:

Former two term City Councilman and Conservative Radio Talk Show Host Chris Medlock states that neither he, his campaign, or any person or firm associated with his campaign is running the annoying computer calls to Republican voters in Tulsa. For the past three weeks voters of Tulsa have been complaining to the Medlock for Mayor campaign, as well as the Tulsa Republican Party, about receiving up to ten calls a day, every day, from a computer asking who they will be voting for in the Republican Party primary for Mayor on September 8. Voters are given four choices including Dewey Bartlett, Jr. and Chris Medlock.

Medlock stated, "Tulsa Republican voters are justifiably angry at the annoying and repetitive use of Robo-Polling. One of my Republican opponents has spent at least $30,000 with out-of-state paid consultants which irritate voters. They should do like my campaign and rely on volunteers from right here in Tulsa County to get their message out. The harassment of Republican voters by one campaign can only hurt our party's image, and as the unquestionable conservative Republican in this race I will defend their right to privacy."

I'm told that the other two candidates mentioned in the poll are Anna Falling and Norris Streetman. Dewey Bartlett, Jr., is likely the only candidate with the money to fund such frequent and persistent polling, but you'd think he could afford better advice on when and how often to poll. Perhaps the intent is to run an ongoing tracking poll.

I'm hoping that some polling firm will run a poll and release the results to the public. Without a runoff, it's going to be very important for voters to know which candidates actually stand a chance of winning. Maybe I'll run my own poll.


Tulsa County Republican Party chairman Sally Bell is very upset at the robo-polling and wants everyone to know that the county party is NOT doing the polling and that she is doing everything she can to find out who is responsible and to put a stop to it.

A friend who is one of the frequently robo-polled victims says the calls are coming from Columbus, Ohio.

A knowledgeable reader suggests that this is not a true poll, but a voter ID program -- an attempt to survey as many likely Republican voters as possible to determine which voter is supporting which candidate. Assuming that the calls are coming from the Bartlett campaign, what happens next depends on the answer you give:

Those who say they are voting for Bartlett will not be contacted again by the campaign unless it is for voter turnout. Maybe they will get a call about absentee voting, but more likely, they will be called the Monday before the election and asked if they need a ride to go to the polls.

Medlock/Falling/Streetman voters will get mail negative about their candidate of choice.

Undecided voters will get mail positive about Bartlett and will be continually recalled until they commit. And, if the campaign gets desperate enough, they will get negative mail about Medlock.

This reader suggests one other possibility: Likely Democratic nominee Tom Adelson is doing voter ID so that he can reach out to the losing candidates' supporters after the primary. I could see doing one such survey for such a purpose, but not surveying so many people so often for that reason.

As annoying as these calls are, I'd encourage you to say that you're undecided, and then email me at blog at batesline dot com, and let me know what kind of phone calls and mailers you're receiving from the campaigns.

As a general rule, I'd like to know as soon as you get any sort of contact from any of the campaigns or receive a poll or survey call in a hotly-contested race. Don't worry about pestering me, just email me at blog at batesline dot com. One friend who has worked on campaigns in the past takes detailed notes when a pollster calls and then sends them along to me. As a political nerd, I love that, and it helps me get a clearer picture of the state of the race.

KWGS-FM 89.5 will air a debate between the candidates for Tulsa City Council, District 8, tomorrow, Tuesday, August 18, 2009, at 11:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Studio Tulsa, the station's daily public affairs program.

This is an interesting race: Incumbent Bill Christiansen, first elected in 2002, is seeking a fifth term. He has two challengers, both serious: Phil Lakin, the head of the Tulsa Community Foundation and a trustee of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, and Scott Grizzle, the president of the executive board of TulsaNow. No Democrat filed, so the winner of the primary will be elected to the City Council.

The debate is sponsored by the Downtown Tulsa Kiwanis Club and will be recorded today at 12:30 as part of the club's weekly luncheon at First Methodist Church. News director John Durkee will moderate the debate.

Conservative weekly newspaper the Tulsa Beacon has endorsed Chris Medlock for Mayor of Tulsa. The editorial in the August 13, 2009, edition has positive things to say about three of Medlock's rivals for the Republican nomination -- Anna Falling, David O'Connor, and Kevin Boggs, but urges conservative Republican voters to unite behind the conservative candidate with the best chance of winning the primary and general elections, so as not to split the conservative vote and allow a non-conservative to prevail with less than a majority.

It's a shame that Medlock, Falling, O'Connor and Boggs couldn't pick a candidate and put their combined support behind him or her. That didn't happen and the result was the splintering of conservative support. The beneficiary has to be Bartlett, who, if he wins the primary, will be beaten by Adelson for a second time (Sen. Adelson beat him in a race in 2004).

The Tulsa Beacon could endorse Medlock, Falling, O'Connor or Boggs. They are all fine candidates.
We do endorse Chris Medlock.

Medlock has a record of standing up for what is right. He will resist the "shadow government" and confront the liberal media. He has experience in how government runs and he is a fiscal conservative.

He has the best chance of emerging from the primary with a win over Bartlett and is the best hope to defeat Adelson.

We recommend that you vote for Chris Medlock on Sept. 8.

Regarding Bartlett, the Beacon editorial says:

Conservative Republicans can easily mark Dewey Bartlett, Jr., off their list. He is a liberal big spender (he promoted a $2 billion tax increase) and he was an outspoken supporter of Mayor Kathy Taylor, perhaps the most liberal mayor in Tulsa history. Taylor named Bartlett to the airport trust, where he faithfully did her bidding by voting to give the Bank of Oklahoma $7.1 million in a settlement over Great Plains Airlines.

If he were an honest politician, Bartlett would switch parties and run as a Democrat.

The problem with this winner-take-all primary is that conservatives have several good candidates that might split the vote while Bartlett will get all the liberal, country club Republican votes from Midtown/Downtown.

MORE: The Medlock for Mayor website has been relaunched, including a new issues page with a series of short YouTube videos setting out Chris Medlock's positions on crime, downtown, taxation, regionalism, the city budget, eminent domain, and government transparency, among other issues.

In a recent blog post, Steven Roemerman scrutinizes mayoral candidate Dewey Bartlett Jr.'s claim that business experience is an important qualification for running for mayor. Bartlett cited Mayor Kathy Taylor's business experience as the motivation for his endorsement of her (presumably referring both to his 2006 endorsement and Dewey Bartlett's 2009 endorsement of Kathy Taylor).

Roemerman cites three reasons why running a city government is and should be nothing like running a business. A city's purpose is not profit but providing services for the citizens; the CEO's power is deliberately limited, balanced by the City Council; and a city doesn't have stockholders with varying percentages of ownership, but citizens with (what should be) an equal voice. He writes that Taylor's "business-like" approach to decision making has caused some problems:

Tulsa is NOT a business. The Mayor's power is balanced by the council. They are elected to their position the same as the mayor and are due respect. We have seen what happens when the Mayor pretends to be the CEO of the city. Kathy Taylor rules in a way that keeps the council in the dark; forcing their hand without adequate time to weigh an issue. We have seen this with the 7.1 million dollar pay out to BOK to settle the Great Planes Airlines issue and with the Ball Park assessment district. She expects, much the way a CEO might, that when she sets a course everyone will fall in line without question. Presumably since Bartlett seems to be in love with Kathy Taylor's style, and thinks that the City should be run like a corporation, he will rule in much the same way.

Steven makes a good point, but beyond that, I'm not sure how applicable small business experience is to running City Hall. While it's certainly valuable to have an understanding of the challenges faced by small business, the management skills required to oversee the work of 4,000 employees (about the number that work for the City of Tulsa) are a couple of orders of magnitude more complex than running a small business with about 10 employees. In searching online news archives, 10 is the biggest number that I've seen cited as the number of employees of Keener Oil, the company founded by the junior Bartlett's grandfather. The company's website currently lists eight employees, plus, on the associates and relationships page, three attorneys, a CPA, a geologist, a bank, and an insurance company. While small businesses of this size are the backbone of our economy, I don't think that running a business of this size really gives you a leg up when it comes to overseeing a city bureaucracy.

(Another way the city isn't like a business: In Oklahoma, employees of private companies serve at will and can be fired for any reason. Nearly all city employees, including most of the heads of departments, are protected by civil service.)

For his part, Steven Roemerman thinks that Chris Medlock's recent service on the City Council gives him the most recent, relevant experience to prepare him to serve as mayor:

Chris has the experience necessary for this job. As a two term city councilor, he understands the budget process; he has had to deal with the problems with a city in economic turmoil, with furloughs, and budget problems. As a talk show host on the radio, Chris's job was to listen to, and understand our needs and feelings. The Chris Medlock show was an opportunity for us to partner with him to keep the politicians at Tulsa City Hall accountable for their actions. He gave us a voice, and he wants to do it again as Tulsa's Mayor.

MORE: Roemerman asks Chris Medlock campaign volunteers why they're supporting him for Mayor of Tulsa.

On Tuesday, the Republican Women's Club of Tulsa County hosted a mayoral candidate forum. Six GOP candidates were in attendance: Dewey Bartlett, Jr., Chris Medlock, Kevin Boggs, Nathaniel Booth, Anna Falling, and Norris Streetman.

During the candidates' opening statements, Medlock referred to Bartlett as the poster boy for "Republicans for Kathy Taylor," referring to Bartlett's endorsement of the Democrat in 2006 and 2009. Bartlett's endorsement appeared prominently at the top of the Republicans for Kathy web page prior to Taylor's decision not to seek re-election.

The highlight of the event was the Q & A period.

As far as I am aware, Dewey Bartlett, Jr., has yet to participate in a public forum where he would face questions specific to him about his record. At the Tulsa Republican Club meeting last month, questions were taken on cards, and audience members were advised to ask only those questions that could be answered by all the candidates. The same sort of request was made of potential questioners at this forum. It's as if they think his record -- his involvement in Tulsans for Better Government, his endorsement of Kathy Taylor for Mayor in 2006 and 2009, his praise for Kathy Taylor's Great Plains lawsuit deal that made Tulsa taxpayers pay back money they didn't owe for the airline's default -- can't stand up to public scrutiny.

At this forum, the audience was allowed to ask questions directly of the panel of candidates, unscreened.

Tulsa County Republican Party Chairman Sally Bell asked the candidates to give their opinion on the proposed charter amendment to make city elections non-partisan. All of the candidates expressed opposition to the idea, with the exception of Bartlett who gave a rambling answer that had him straddling the fence.

"Well, it's an interesting question. There's two sides to it. When you see what has happened in Oklahoma City, they approach things in a non-partisan basis and they've done pretty well. I think the underlying question should be are we really electing good people. That really is our responsibility as citizens of Tulsa. We have to elect good people. We have to spend the time to evaluate their position, see what they're up to. I think that partisan politics is very, very good. It sort of kind of cuts down and makes a position very well known. Unfortunately we have a lawsuit, so it depends on forcing the lawsuits on which position is going to be the one that comes out. Is it unfettered non-partisanship or is it partisanship with just a few ideas or some qualification. That's the difficult part. So yes, non-partisan question, er, excuse me, non-partisan elections are a good idea, but at the end of the day partisanship is how we differentiate."

In fact, the lawsuit, filed by Councilor John Eagleton, will not affect the substance of the proposed charter amendment, contrary to what Bartlett seems to be saying. Its outcome will determine only whether the amendment will be on the ballot or not. Bartlett's last sentence is almost impossible to parse. Is Bartlett saying that non-partisan elections are a good idea because they would prevent voters from differentiating between candidates?

Chris Medlock praised Eagleton for filing his lawsuit. "I wish Councilor Eagleton was here today so we all could give him a round of applause for the lawsuit he filed...." Medlock described the non-partisan election concept: "It is not allowing Republicans to run as Republicans. I'm against that. I'm against not allowing Democrats to run as Democrats. Party, as I said, party matters."

Medlock went on to note that the organization backing non-partisan elections, Tulsans for Better Government, was formed to push the idea of reducing the number of council districts from 9 to 6 and adding three at-large seats on the council each to be elected by the city as a whole. "Those of you who have been concerned about the same group of people running this people for the last twenty years, thirty years, will realize what that was about." Medlock pointed out that Bartlett "was a charter member of that organization."

(There is a way to allow Democrats to run as Democrats and Republicans run as Republicans while solving the problem we currently have: Many voters in many districts have no effective voice, and in some cases, no voice whatsoever, in the choice of their city councilors. You can do this with what I've called multi-partisan elections and instant runoff voting.)

I went up to ask a question about Kathy Taylor's authoritarian leadership style, her habit of working deals behind the scenes and then dropping them on the City Council, insisting that they must act immediately. I cited the ballpark assessment district as an example. I asked the candidates whether they would emulate that style of leadership, and if not, why would you endorse Kathy Taylor for re-election as Dewey Bartlett, Jr., did. The MC, Dierdre Rees, asked "Does someone know what the question was?" so I went back up and repeated the last part of it. (After the meeting, Rees told me that she didn't mean to be rude with her comment. She said she had "spaced out" and missed hearing the question, and that it was clearer when I rephrased it.)

Bartlett was the first to respond, and it seemed as if he was starting to answer my question about his endorsement of Kathy Taylor. "It's very simple. At the time, at the point in t...." But he caught himself, and instead addressed the question of leadership style, using it as a pretext for criticizing the idea, espoused by Chris Medlock, of hiring a city manager, claiming that a city manager would be less accountable and transparent than a strong mayor.

After Bartlett's answer there were audible comments from throughout the room that "he didn't answer the question."

To go back to Bartlett's objection to the idea of a city manager: Tulsa has had city managers in all but name under our current charter, with people like Bob Lemons, Charles Hardt, Sam Roop, Allen LaCroix, and others serving under titles like Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Operating Officer in the Savage and LaFortune administrations, in addition to serving as heads of departments under civil service protection. The only difference between that and a city manager is that the role is divided among two or more "chiefs." No mayor, under our current charter, has been directly engaged in the day-to-day management of the basic operations of city government. A city manager that served at the pleasure of the mayor and council would be more accountable to the public than the current arrangement, in which department heads are protected under civil service and are almost impossible to remove.

Two TV stations covered the event: KJRH and KOTV. Both stations' reports focused on Bartlett's endorsement of Taylor.

Here are the news stories. I've put the embedded video after the jump, as it plays havoc with some browsers. The video includes both stations' stories, plus video from Steven Roemerman of Bartlett's and Medlock's responses to Sally Bell's question about non-partisan elections and my question about Kathy Taylor's leadership style and Bartlett's endorsement of Taylor.

KJRH: Medlock targets Bartlett at mayoral forum

KOTV: GOP women host candidates for Tulsa Mayor (The KOTV story includes "web extra" videos of each candidate giving introductory remarks.)

Former Tulsa City Councilor Anna Falling, a Republican candidate for mayor, has announced plans for a news conference tomorrow afternoon at 4:15 at the Tulsa Zoo to protest the Tulsa Park Board's decision several years ago, during Mayor Bill LaFortune's administration several years ago not to permit a privately funded display on the biblical view of creation at the zoo. The board had initially approved the display in light of other displays of non-Christian religions (e.g., a Ganesha idol outside the elephant enclosure, the giant globe with a pantheistic slogan just inside the zoo entrance), then reversed itself.

Falling's press release concludes:

This Tuesday (Aug 11) at 4:15 pm, Anna Falling and dozens of supporters will come to the Tulsa Zoo to stand for this display to honor God and recognize the Christian roots of Tulsa.

I strongly agree with the notion of equal access. If a public place is going to prominently display religious views of the relationship between man and beast, the Christian view shouldn't be excluded. A mayor should appoint members of the parks board who will be even-handed in allowing use of publicly funded facilities for religious purposes.

Personally, I think zoos and natural history museums should stay away from matters cosmological and religious and should drop the heavy-handed evolutionary speculation that infests many exhibits. Tell us what the animal is called, what it eats, where it lives, how it interacts with its native habitat, and other observable information about the animal, but spare us your current guesswork about its ancient ancestors.

All that said, it surprises me that the Falling campaign is choosing this issue as its first publicized media event since the campaign was launched. Taxes, infrastructure, funding for public safety, land-use planning -- these are the issues that the next mayor will have to address right away.

This afternoon, Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton filed a lawsuit in Tulsa County District Court, challenging the validity of the petition seeking non-partisan elections. More details as they are available.

Rick Westcott responds

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Tulsa District 2 City Councilor Rick Westcott is using his blog to provide detailed rationales for his positions on some controversial issues, one of which resulted in him and other councilors being denounced by Mayor Kathy Taylor on a live CNN interview.

The latest entry addresses the concern that Westcott and other councilors have that accepting Federal money to hire police officers will cost the city money it can't afford. Taylor has accused these councilors of acting out of a desire for partisan advantage. Taylor claimed on the CNN interview that the City wouldn't be out any money by having to continue to fund the 18 positions in the fourth year, following the federal three year grant, because it would have to hire that many officers to replace retiring officers anyway.

Westcott has read through the Federal government's documentation for cities seeking the grant and finds that Kathy Taylor is wrong and gives chapter and verse to back up his finding:

One of the arguments in favor of accepting the grant money is that the City of Tulsa loses about 36 officers per year through normal attrition. Over the next three years, if we don't fill all of those positions, we will save enough money to pay the fourth year for the grant-funded officers.

But, the federal government's "Owner's Manual" says that we can't do that. If we do, we'd be in violation of the terms of the grant.

Section 5 of the "Owner's Manual" is called "Retention." The first paragraph says:

"At the time of grant application, your agency committed to retaining all sworn officer positions awarded under the CHRP grant with state and/or local funds for a minimum of 12 months following the conclusion of 36 months of federal funding for each position, over and above the number of locally-funded sworn officer positions that would have existed in the absence of the grant. Your agency cannot satisfy the retention requirement by using CHRP-funded positions to fill locally-funded vacancies resulting from attrition."

In earlier entries, Westcott has discussed his vote on the downtown ballpark assessment and his vote to delay the final vote on the city budget. (It wasn't a vote to layoff dozens of police officers and firefighters.)

To help you keep up with his latest entries, I've added Westcott's blog to my BatesLine Oklahoma headlines page.

Last week I wrote a piece correcting the history of Tulsans for Better Government and the three charter changes recommended by the Citizens' Commission on City Government. In that entry, I quoted a statement in the Citizens' Commission report that some of the commissioners preferred my notion of multi-partisan city elections to non-partisan elections. A commenter asked for more information on the idea, so here it is.

In short, a multi-partisan election gives voters information about the candidates by allowing the candidate a choice of labels to appear next to his or her name. That might be a national party label, or it might be the name of a strictly local political grouping. The idea differs from our current system, in which only a national party label may appear (which may not paint an accurate picture of a candidate's platform on local issues), and the proposed non-partisan system, in which no label whatsoever would appear (providing the voter no information at all about the candidate's affiliations and ideas).

This system is in use in the United Kingdom, where candidates for local councils may run as a Labourite or a Conservative, but often run under a strictly local party banner. Minneapolis has had such a system for many years, and the city recently adopted Instant Runoff Voting to improve the voters' control over electing their preference from a group of three or more candidates. Minneapolis allows each candidate a three-word ballot label expressing his or her "political party or political principle."


I set out a detailed multi-partisan election proposal for Tulsa in an April 5, 2006, column.

Councilor John Eagleton promoted the idea back in 2007. When the Tulsa Whirled published an inane editorial ridiculing multi-partisan elections, I wrote this response.

There's a fundraiser and voter registration drive this Saturday afternoon for Rocky Frisco, Republican candidate for Tulsa District 4 City Councilor. Here are the details:

Rocky Frisco fundraiser and voter registration drive
Saturday, August 8, 2009
1 p.m.
Ed's Hurricane Lounge
3216 E. 11th St.

As befits a candidate who also happens to be a veteran musician, several Tulsa bands will be playing the event.

Rocky Frisco is making a serious run to unseat the incumbent, Eric Gomez, and it appears that he has the most detailed and thoughtful website of any candidate in this election. Here's a snippet from his home page that gives you a sense of what he's all about:

If you recall Jonathan Swift's Tale in "Gulliver's Travels" of the encounter with the Lilliputians, the tiny humans were able to capture and imprison the (to them) enormous Gulliver by tying him to the ground with millions of microscopic insubstantial threads. That's the mental image I have of modern government, meddling and micromanaging our lives in areas where they have no business doing so. In an era where the federal government has refused to honor the limitations of the Constitution and Bill of Rights and continually illegally steers the nation all over the road, like a drunk driver, maybe I can make a difference regarding our liberty in my local area. It's the old Sunday School concept of "brighten the corner where you are."

How does that apply to Tulsa?

The Tulsa City Government is, far too much, about money and who gets it and what's done with it, not about serving the taxpayers, voters and residents. I personally find it ludicrous for them to spend enormous amounts of money on sports arenas and mega-entertainment venues when our streets are like a battle-zone and repairs need to be re-repaired after just a year or two on a regular basis. Who thought it wise to lay enormous tax increases on people and businesses in the downtown area as part of this "renewal?" I see too many unintended consequences following the decisions of the current City Government. When will the City Government stop shooting the people of our city in the foot, arse and elbow? What I read in the local paper leads me to think the people in City Government think they are our bosses and that they need to run the city is if we are their employees and that Tulsa is in competition with other cities: who has the best sports arenas, parks and entertainment complexes? I see Tulsa as my home town and I want it to be the best home town for the people of Tulsa, not a competitive entity that tramples on their freedom in order to compete with other cities.

As a bit of comic relief on his campaign website, Rocky presents an endorsement from humorist Dave Barry:

"I am proud to endorse Rocky Frisco for Tulsa City Council, District Four. Not only is he a fine community leader, but he's also a heck of a piano player, which would be handy if the Tulsa City Council ever decides to form a band, which it definitely should."

Tulsa mayoral candidate Chris Medlock is hosting an open house at his campaign headquarters tonight from 5:30 to 7:30. The HQ is at 10203-A East 61st Street in the Mingo Valley Trade Center (west of US 169 on 61st St).

If you're running for city office and are planning a volunteer or public event, drop me a line at blog at batesline dot com, I'll consider it for publication here. (Please note that I will post or not at my discretion.)

If you missed it, CNN interviewed Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor live regarding the $3.5 million in federal stimulus money granted to the city to fund 18 police positions for three years.

The catch: Tulsa would have to provide funding for a fourth year and would also have to find $840,000 to provide equipment for the officers. Taylor is proposing to take the money from the Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy, the trash trust that ran the now-defunct trash-to-energy plant. Taylor told CNN that "we" (the City, evidently) gave TARE $10 million "about 20 years ago."

Off the top of my head, I'd guess the City has given hundreds of millions, via the Third Penny, to fund capital projects for the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority. Maybe some of those funds now for general fund purposes.

Taylor says the fourth year of funding isn't an issues, as we'd have to fund replacements for retiring officers anyway. On the face of it, that doesn't seem like that would meet federal conditions. Wouldn't Tulsa need to maintain the current number of positions through the fourth year? She seems to be saying that it doesn't matter how many officers retire or are let go, as long as we hire 18 more and keep those 18 on staff through the fourth year.

When asked about City Council concerns over whether Tulsa could afford the strings attached to this money, Taylor replied, "I think a few councilors are playing politics with this money." This is Taylor's standard answer when a councilor doesn't bend to her will. But what political gain would come from refusing federal funds for police officers? Why would you risk the political hit from opposing the money unless you felt it was important? Anyway, didn't Taylor eliminate politics from the budget process when she decided not to run for re-election?

(Video posted at My Tulsa World.)

Kathy Taylor's decision to denounce city councilors on a national news network is just one more example of her contempt for the legislative branch of city government. It certainly would be welcome to have a mayor that treated the City Council with due respect, as partners instead of pests.

MORE: Here's Councilor Rick Westcott's interview from last Thursday's Pat Campbell show on why accepting the stimulus money is a bad idea for Tulsa.

Still too swamped for a detailed analytical post, but I must at least point out the misstatements at the end of last Friday's story in the daily about the initiative petition filed by Tulsans for Better Government in support of a charter change for non-partisan elections. The original web story was more accurate than the version published on July 31. Tulsans for Better Government existed before the Citizens' Commission on City Government was formed, and the City Council did not ignore all of the commission's recommendations -- one of the three recommendations (fall elections) has already been approved by the voters and a second (appointed city auditor) will be on November's ballot. The third -- non-partisan elections -- did not have the unanimous support of the commission.

Tulsans for Better Government was actually formed in 2005 to promote the idea of at-large councilors -- reducing the number of districts from nine to six and adding three at-large seats. The effort was a reaction to a City Council with a majority of councilors who actually sought to represent the interests of their districts. It was seen as an attempt to boost representation for the wealthier sections of Tulsa -- under the old at-large commission system, nearly all city officials came from the Money Belt -- and to strip political power from the north, east, and west Tulsa. Dewey Bartlett Jr. and Mayor Kathy Taylor lent their names to the cause as members of the advisory board. The group circulated an initiative petition in support of their proposal.

Tulsans for Better Government suspended its petition effort when Mayor Bill LaFortune announced the formation of a "Citizens' Commission on City Government," assigned to study the City Charter, including terms and number of councilors, partisanship, etc. In their final report, the commission strongly rejected Tulsans for Badder Government's at-large councilor idea. The report made three recommendations, two of which have already been sent to the voters by the City Council, as noted above.

The third recommendation, non-partisan elections, did not enjoy as strong a level of support:

It should be noted that this recommendation is not made unanimously. Some suggested that no change should be made while others embraced an idea advanced by local commentator Michael Bates, known as multi-partisan elections. Still others recommended that the system simply needed technical changes to enable higher participation levels. For example, one thoughtful suggestion was a response to the situation where candidates of only one party file for a council race in a particular district. In those situations, a few task force members recommended that such an election be converted from a primary election to a general election.

More info at the following links:

About this Archive

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

Tulsa Election 2009: July 2009 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Election 2009: September 2009 is the next archive.

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