Tulsa Election 2013 Category

Two elections to fill a city office and three propositions on the City of Tulsa general election ballot for November 12, 2013. Here are my picks:

Mayor: No endorsement. Can't make myself vote for either one. Neither candidate lives up to their expensively self-funded hype. I wish they both could lose. While it won't determine the winner, you can register your disapproval of the finalists in the race by leaving that section blank on your ballot. I wish we had Nevada's None of the Above option.

Auditor: No endorsement. The best choice, Josh Lewis, lost in the primary. Incumbent Clift Richards, originally appointed to his post by Dewey Bartlett Jr, faces Cathy Criswell, risk manager under Kathy Taylor. It would be nice if we could vote for an auditor conditionally. I want Richards to win if Taylor is elected mayor, but I want Criswell to win if Bartlett Jr is re-elected, so that either way the mayor has to deal with an auditor whose career he/she did not advance. Here's an interesting op-ed from business ethicist Chuck Gallagher on the ethics complaint against Clift Richards. Whoever wins will face re-election in November 2014, as city election cycles finally sync up with state and federal elections.

Proposition 1, City Council raise to $24,000 per year: Yes. This amounts to a 6% increase in inflation-adjusted dollars since the council was instituted in 1989. The workman is worthy of his hire.

Proposition 2, 1.1%, seven-year capital improvements sales tax: No. Wish I could support this, but there are too many big vague numbers, along with an unnecessary $10 million donation to another taxing entity. There's time, before the current tax is due to expire at the end of June 2014, to go back to the drawing board and fix what's wrong with this proposition.

Proposition 3, $355 million general obligation bond issue for streets and bridges: Yes. Only 52% of the amount is assigned to specific projects, but the entire amount must be spent on streets and bridges.

Read more in the BatesLine Tulsa Election 2013 archive.

The conventional wisdom, conditioned by a decade or more of self-serving propaganda from certain quarters, is that the Tulsa City Council is just a bunch of bickering complainers, and we'd all be better off to go back to the old commission system where all the decisions were made by five men who lived within a 3 Wood drive of each other.

I beg to differ. The citizens of Tulsa who don't live in the Money Belt deserve representation, too. And most of the city councilors I've known work very hard to ensure that they are listening to their constituents and that their constituents' voices are heard at City Hall. Often that means resisting proposals from the mayor or the Chamber of Commerce or other sources that may not be in the best interests of their constituents or the city as a whole. Good councilors enforce government transparency and accountability.

In addition to attending committee meetings and the regular weekly council meeting on Thursday, a conscientious councilor also attends neighborhood association meetings and city board and commission hearings affecting his district, and spends time researching the issues that come before the council.

It's not a full-time job, but it takes up a lot of time. For councilors who run their own businesses, that often means a loss of income. For all of the councilors, spending more time on council duty usually means more miles driven, more meals eaten out, and home duties farmed out to hired hands, all at the councilors' expense.

When the new city charter was approved in 1989, it set an initial annual salary for City Councilors as $12,000, a minimal sum even then for a council that the powers that be hoped would be nothing but a rubber stamp for mayoral and chamber initiatives.

We can't afford to make city councilors whole for all the work they do above and beyond the official weekly meeting, but we can at least acknowledge their hard work with a stipend that can help them justify the cost of serving to the families who depend on their income.

$24,000 in 2013 dollars is $12,709.86 in 1989 dollars. So we're talking about a 6% raise (adjusted for inflation) for a job that is arguably twice as complex and twice as time-consuming as it was in 1989. That's a bargain. I'll be voting yes.

Our condolences and prayers go out to the Inhofe family. A small private plane registered to Dr. Perry Inhofe, son of Sen. Jim Inhofe, crashed on Sunday, killing the pilot.

The "Improve Our Tulsa" package of capital improvement funding comes to voters as two propositions. We've talked about the 7-year, 1.1% sales tax (Proposition 2). Here's Proposition 3, the general obligation bond issue. Before Mayor Jim Inhofe introduced the "third-penny" sales tax, G. O. bond issues were the way Tulsa paid for capital improvements.

Oklahoma law allows counties and school districts and community colleges and library systems to use property tax ("millage levies") for operating expenses, but cities can use property tax for two purposes only: repaying "general obligation bond issues" for capital improvements and paying off judicial settlements and judgments against the city. The money comes out of a "sinking fund" which is replenished by an increase in property taxes. (For example, the $7.1 million Great Plains Airlines settlement that Kathy Taylor arranged and Dewey Bartlett Jr approved would have been paid in this way, had the Oklahoma Supreme Court not ruled that the repayment was illegal.) So the only way a city in Oklahoma can make use of property tax as a revenue source is to get sued or go into debt. (I leave the perverse incentives thereby created as an exercise for the reader.)

Each year, the city submits its sinking fund needs to the county excise board, which calculates the millage required to cover the need, based on the assessed value of property in the city. Tulsa has the highest property tax rate of any city in Tulsa County: 20.24, which amounts to $202.40 of the property tax bill on a $100,000 house, about $30 more than the tax on the same value house in Broken Arrow. It amounts to about 15% of your total property tax bill.

For as long as I can remember, the City of Tulsa has balanced its capital improvements funding between sales tax and G. O. bonds. New bond issues are usually staggered to keep the property tax rate level; the idea is to issue new bonds as the old bonds are paid off. We would get more for our money if the millage could be "pay as you go," if we didn't have to incur fees for issuing the bonds and debt service, but for now, state law doesn't allow it.

So there's nothing scandalous or novel about issuing G. O. bonds to finance streets and bridges.

70% of the $335 million is designated for rebuilding and maintaining existing streets. By law that 70% must be spent for stated projects. Arguably, only 52% is going to specifically listed projects; another 18% ($63,406,000) is made up of "citywide" funds for unspecified rehabilitation and replacement projects and matching funds. An attorney wanting to derail the bond issue could have some fun with that. The relevant section of state law is 62 O. S. 574.

That leaves 30%, $106.5 million, which could be spent on other street and bridge construction, reconstruction, and repair projects yet to be determined. The bond issue language is limited to those purposes. Debt service would be over and above the $335 million, which constitutes the amount of principal being borrowed.

Despite the lack of specificity on which street projects will be funded with 48% of the money, at least we know the money has to be spent on street projects. My inclination is to vote FOR Proposition 3.

There's a thought-provoking story from last week's local elections in Houston: An elderly, white, conservative man won a non-partisan race for a six-year-term on the board of Houston Community College, defeating a four-term African-American incumbent in a heavily African-American district. The victorious candidate, Dave Wilson, used stock photos of African-Americans on his direct mail pieces and never included a picture of himself. One mail piece noted that he had been endorsed by his cousin, Ron Wilson. The Ron Wilson who endorsed him was his cousin from Iowa, but voters may have assumed he was referring to the former State Representative from that area.

Some are claiming that Dave Wilson pretended to be black, but he never claimed to be African-American; he just avoided creating the impression that he wasn't. As a result, it appears that he was able to get a hearing for the concerns he had about the management of Houston Community College, concerns that apparently were shared by enough voters to get him elected. This link has one of his radio ads in which a woman talks about the incumbent's support for funding HCC's overseas programs over funding for local scholarships.

I'm torn between being heartened that Wilson was able to neutralize race as an issue and being disheartened at the assumption that voters would have rejected him if they'd known his race, and even more disheartened that voters appear to have allowed direct mail pieces to serve as their sole source of input on the election.

Which brings us to Tulsa. Both the Taylor and Bartlett campaigns have spent piles of money pushing their preferred memes -- positive memes about their own candidates and negative memes about the opposition. Because I wish they could both lose on Tuesday, I've spent my limited blogging time during this campaign trying to debunk the nonsense from each side. No, Kathy Taylor did not bring us to the brink of bankruptcy, and Dewey Bartlett Jr didn't rescue us from bankruptcy. Dewey has been as big a spender as Kathy. You can't push all the blame for the trash mess onto Bartlett Jr; Taylor deserves a big share of the blame, too. Neither candidate is visionary or competent or bold. Both backed the Great Plains Airlines bailout. Both have had problems working respectfully with those who disagree with them, particularly their fellow elected officials.

Tulsa voters have made a mess. Maybe if their noses are rubbed in it they won't do it again.

Conversations, face-to-face and on Facebook, indicate that my debunking effort has been a failure. It's shocking to hear intelligent people parrot lines from local political commercials with conviction, as if they'd come to the conclusion independently, with no awareness that they'd been fed those lines from a couple of very expensive propaganda machines. I'm not frightened by what they don't know; I'm frightened by what they "know" that isn't so.

I'm reminded of this:

tKathy_Taylor-That.Is.Crazy.pngI'm conflicted about Tuesday's vote. I would love to see Kathy Taylor's $3 million attempt to buy her way back into the mayor's office rendered futile and her political career ended.

WhatMeDewey.jpgBut just when I'm comfortable with the idea of voting for Dewey Bartlett Jr just to stop Taylor, Bartlett Jr or one of his minions does something obnoxious like refusing to show up for a discussion with the City Council on Tulsa's revenue shortfalls, claiming this year's homicide body count is no big deal, or leaking a police report that ordinarily would have been withheld from the public. And that puts me back in the None of the Above column.

One veteran Oklahoma Republican who has volunteered for the Bartlett campaign observed that if Tulsa had a competent Republican mayor, the outcome would not be in doubt. It's Bartlett Jr's obnoxious incompetence that has made this a close race. The GOP establishment types who pushed Bartlett Jr's candidacy in 2009, despite clear warning signs like Bartlett Jr's endorsement of Taylor and Bartlett Jr's backing of the $7.1 million Great Plains Airlines settlement, owe their fellow Republicans an apology. Bartlett Jr's support for equating sexual confusion with race and religion and for a massive corporate welfare and pork barrel tax have realized the fears of fiscal and social conservatives alike who held their noses and voted for him in 2009.


And if Taylor were truly as moderate and non-partisan as the image she has paid to create, she might be way out in front. But she has shown her true colors in her support for left-wing causes like Michael Bloomberg's coalition of gun-grabbing mayors and anthropogenic-global-warming globaloney, and her support for left-wing candidates like Barack Obama and Harry Reid.

Nor has Taylor has shown any courage on land use and development issues, notwithstanding the wishful thinking of my urbanist friends. When her voice might have helped, she has remained silent. For example, not only did Taylor refuse to speak out against wanton downtown demolition during the recent debate, when she was mayor her administration opposed modest measures to encourage preservation and pursued a downtown assessment and fire-code rules that had the side effect of encouraging demolition.

I understand my friends who are voting for Dewey because they are afraid that Kathy will use her position and wealth as a springboard to higher office. I understand my friends who are voting for Kathy because she seems to be marginally more professional in manner and to have been easier to work with than Dewey has been.

Vote as you please, but there's no reason to feel good about the vote you cast on Tuesday.

MORE: The AP's Justin Juozapavicius covers the collapse of the once friendly relationship between Bartlett Jr and Taylor:

Challenger Kathy Taylor and incumbent Dewey Bartlett, Jr., live roughly a half-mile apart, share a social strata and dozens of mutual friends and, at one point, actually used to like each other.

For much of the past year, they've been at each other's throats, peppering airwaves and mailboxes with brutal ads and accusations -- eroding what had been the equivalent of a political romance. She recruited him while she was mayor in 2007 to help head up a high-profile drive to fix Tulsa's seemingly ancient roadways; he endorsed her re-election bid in 2009, but she decided not to run again.

Those days are long gone. Bartlett's called her a quitter who left office because she couldn't cut it as the recession was gripping Tulsa. She's called him an absentee mayor who bothers to show up to only 8 percent of various city meetings and has no plan to tackle a budget shortfall that totaled $3.16 million at the start of the fiscal year.


Separated at birth? Photo collage from http://kathytaylorvoteno.blogspot.com/

In addition to voting for mayor next Tuesday, Tulsans will also decide whether to re-elect or replace the City Auditor, and will vote on three ballot propositions. Prop. 1 involves raising the city councilor salary to $24,000 per year. Prop. 2 and 3 are collectively called "Improve Our Tulsa" and involve nearly a billion dollars in funding for capital improvements.

Why two propositions? Because there are two different kinds of taxes involved: A sales tax (Prop. 2) and a general obligation bond issue that will be repaid by an increase in property tax rates (Prop. 3).

Prop. 2 is a 1.1% City of Tulsa sales tax capped both by money (tax ends once $563.7 million as been collected) and by time (seven years, from July 1, 2014, to no later than June 30, 2021). Here is the Prop. 2 ballot resolution establishing the parameters for the sales tax. Here is the City of Tulsa "Brown Ordinance," codified as Title 43-H, that sets out specifically how the sales tax revenues are to be spent, sets up a Sales Tax Overview Committee to oversee the completion of the projects, and establishes a complicated procedure to ensure that the public is notified of any proposed changes to the allocation of the sales tax revenues.

For most of its history the City of Tulsa funded capital improvements by general obligation bond issues (repaid by increased property tax rates), enterprise funds (e.g., water revenues paying for new water lines), and special assessments (e.g., property owners adjacent to a road would each pay a share of the cost for repaving it).

In 1966, Tulsa tripled in land area overnight, adding about 120 square miles to the north, east, and south. By 1979, it had become clear that the City could not keep up with both repair of older infrastructure and extension of infrastructure to new areas of growth. Then-Mayor Jim Inhofe proposed the first "Third-Penny" sales tax, adding a 1% tax earmarked for capital improvements to the 2% permanent tax. Voters rejected it, partly because, unlike bond issues, the money wasn't legally bound to be spent on the promised projects, and partly because voters did not want to spend tax dollars on a low-water dam on the Arkansas River.

In 1980, Inhofe tried again, this time without the low-water dam but with additional legal protections to guarantee that the money would be spent as promised. The new provisions were devised by Darven Brown in the city's legal department. Ever since then, the separate ordinance specifying projects to be funded by a Third-Penny tax, establishing an overview committee, and requiring a high-level of public notice before changes can be considered has been known in his honor as the Brown Ordinance. The Brown Ordinances have been codified as Title 43-A through 43-H -- this is the eighth such ordinance.

The current City of Tulsa sales tax rate is currently 3.167% -- a permanent 2% for general operations, and 1.167% for capital improvements approved in 2008 ("Fix Our Streets") and which expires at the end of June 2014. That 0.167% (1/6th of a cent) came into effect after Tulsa County's Four-to-Fix-The-County part 2 expired at the end of September 2011, resulting in more revenue for Tulsa's street rebuilding program without an increase in the overall sales tax rate in Tulsa.

The reason this renewal only involves 1.1% instead of 1.167% is because of an agreement between city officials and county officials to allow the county to put its own sales tax before the voters next year and reclaim the difference (0.067%) for county projects without raising the overall sales tax rate in the City of Tulsa.

Here are some of my thoughts about this measure, some favorable, some unfavorable.

Prop. 2 is set up just like the other seven capital improvement ("third penny") sales tax measures that have been approved by voters since 1980. At a top level, it's no more a blank check than those measures were. The sales tax will be spent as it comes in. None of the funds are reserved for debt service.

What is different this year are many vague line items with big dollar amounts, e.g., $46,235,000 for "Five-Year Capital Equipment Needs." That's a lot of money that can be moved around without triggering the protections of the Brown Ordinance.

I'm pleased to see funding for capital improvements related to implementation of small-area plans in areas like the Pearl District, the Northland area, and the Eugene Field (West Tulsa) area. Residents and business owners have been waiting for years, even decades for improvements that these neighborhoods need to attract new residents and businesses. Elm Creek

And yet the inclusion of funds for "acquisition" (read that as eminent domain / condemnation), and the inclination of our city leaders to ignore plans and promises if someone with enough money wants something different all combine to make me very nervous about the lack of detail setting out exactly will be done with the money.

City councilors were wise to exclude funding for improvements to the BOK Center. Tulsans already fronted the money to build the entertainment venue, and it will never generate enough additional sales tax money to pay us back for the cost of construction. It's not too much to ask those who use the venue to cover ongoing maintenance and operating costs.

At the same time, councilors included a $10,000,000 donation to another governmental entity. I love our library system and want it to continue to thrive, but the City of Tulsa has no business donating $10,000,000 of its scarce sales tax funds and giving it to the Tulsa City-County Library system, which has a dedicated and generous revenue stream, a permanent property tax. If the library board doesn't have enough money for the capital improvements it wants, the library board can ask the voters for more property tax or it can ask Tulsans to contribute toward the project. This big government-to-government donation shouldn't be a part of this sales tax package.

I wonder why wording in this package is so cagey about plans to widen Gilcrease Museum Road between Edison and Apache -- the stretch that runs in front of the museum and behind homes in Gilcrease Hills. The Brown Ordinance refers to it euphemistically as "25 W. Ave."

I'm impressed by the level of detail provided about Gilcrease Museum improvements -- 19 separate line items -- but I wonder why that level of detail wasn't the standard for the entire package. And I wonder why a city-owned museum seeking city funding for improvements presents itself on the web as a wholly owned subsidiary of a private university.

Some of the prettiest views in Tulsa are found by driving Yale between 81st and 91st. It's one of the few places we didn't slavishly follow the section line grid but instead respected the terrain. I see $31 million to widen that section, and I worry the city is going to mess that up.

I was heartened this summer to see the Woodward Park water features that I remember from my childhood running once again. But I see $4.85 million for extensive landscaping and renovating the stream at the pond, and I worry that we'll be giving the city the money and permission they need to mess it all up.

District 6 is home to 11.1% of Tulsa's population, yet the east Tulsa district has only seven specific projects: Three small bridges, three playgrounds, and Savage Park.

I'm sorry I didn't pay closer attention to this package when it was being formulated. After they removed a couple of prominent deal-killers, I thought I'd be able to support the package. Now I'm not sure.

Because the existing sales tax doesn't expire until June 30, 2014, there is time to make some changes and try again, if this effort fails.

Former Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton, a Republican and a budget hawk during his time on the council, issued a statement today on the fiscal record of incumbent Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr:

As a former City Councilor, I share my opinion that Mayor Dewey Bartlett is not a fiscal conservative. He has allowed the City budget to grow to an irresponsible level.

Mayor Bartlett expanded the budget to extraordinary amounts over the last three years. The three largest budgets in the City of Tulsa's history have been during his administration.

Today, news sources report that the projected budget shortfall is over $6.0 million.

In the six weeks since the City of Tulsa's budget deficit was first disclosed, I've watched with avid interest for leadership from Mayor Dewey Bartlett. Tulsa is still waiting.

Like others who have previously served Tulsa in an elected role, I understand the ramifications of not moving quickly to adjust the budget and curtail an out-of-control deficit.

The head of the Office of Management Review remains unfilled, and we've learned that the City Council must take the lead in implementing the KPMG study cost reductions.

I remain simply an observer in the Mayoral race, and expressly offer no endorsement for either candidate.


BatesLine, May 2013: Kathy & Dewey's budget roller coaster (comparing general fund budgets in both administrations

KRMG, April 29, 2011: Eagleton objects to Bartlett budget for exceeding core rate of inflation

BatesLine, August 28, 2009: A look back at Eagleton's lone vote, grounded in financial concerns, against relocating City Hall to One Technology Center

Urban Tulsa Weekly, October 14, 2009: Prior to the mayoral election, Eagleton calls for core inflation budgeting:

Eagleton said he has been pleading with his fellow councilors for years to adopt a strategy he calls core-inflation budgeting, rather than simply budgeting to the revenue stream. Because Tulsa's municipal budget relies on sales tax revenue, he said, the amount of money city officials have to spend shrinks accordingly when sales tax receipts go into a decline.

In 2006, he said, the economy was good, and sales tax receipts were high.

"And we spent every penny we earned," he said. "We gave raises all around that are now baked into the cake. So, it becomes harder and harder every time, with each budget cycle downturn, to meet our budget."

Eagleton favors a budget process based on the core inflation rate that sets aside revenue for the inevitable downturns of the future. Some smaller sacrifices today can help the city avoid having to make what he calls the "Draconian cuts" required in the current budget.

"If we had done that in 2007 and 2008, yes, we would still have to trim the edges, but we wouldn't have the eight furlough days we did have," he said.

Eagleton said he plans on making the same core-budgeting plea next spring, but the reception that proposal receives depends on the makeup of the council and who occupies the mayor's office.

Terry Simonson, Dewey Bartlett Jr's former chief of staff, writes that Tulsa's murder rate isn't all that bad, if you don't count all the murders:

It's hard for the community to be concerned about the number of homicides when it's gang members killing gang members. When you think about it, who's really complaining about that? Those deaths are certainly a loss to the families of the fallen gang member, but is it actually a loss to the community? It sounds like good public safety work being done for the police by the gangs. Wiping out gangs is, after all, the focus of local law enforcement, and they can use all the help they can get. If the gangs want to kill each other, we certainly don't want to stop them. This is a callous, but true, assessment of the situation. The sad part of these gang-on-gang shootings are the innocents who end up being killed in cross-fire and drive-by shootings....

Like the gang related and home invasion killings, the eight people killed in drug related deaths are people who have made death wish choices in the life styles they have chosen. They live by the sword and they die by the sword.

So, at the end of the day, when you take out the drug killings, gang killings, alcohol-related killings and home invasion killings, for a city of almost 400,000 people, our homicide rate is one of the lowest in the nation.

Gee, that just makes me feel all cozy!

Dear Daughter's comment: "If I didn't know better, I'd say he was a troll."

Terry Simonson pushes through Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr's office doorI don't know where Terry lives these days. When he was married to his first wife, they lived in a gated community across 81st Street from Holland Hall -- I was at his home for a fundraiser once -- and I suppose if you lived in such surroundings you might believe that you could be insulated from the effects of gang warfare. Stay behind your walls, order everything through amazon.com, and all will be well.

Does Simonson believe that we can establish no-go zones, wall off whole sections of Tulsa, and the savages will destroy each other and leave decent folk alone?

Does Terry Simonson believe that Graydon Brown was asking for trouble when he took his daughter shopping in the I-44 & Darlington Best Buy on a Sunday afternoon?

Gang violence affects innocent people all over Tulsa, including innocent people in the gangsta's own family, own apartment building, own neighborhood.

For too long, we've read news stories like the recent high school graduate shot and killed just because she was driving down an east Tulsa neighborhood street. Or the bright young man in north Tulsa with a promising future who was hit and killed by a stray gang bullet.

In 2008, the youngest elected city councilor in California, 22-year-old Matt Garcia of Fairfield, was shot and killed by drug dealers who thought they were administering gangland justice to someone who owed them money for drugs. The getaway driver told police that it was a case of mistaken identity. This happened in a nice suburban neighborhood, where Garcia had just arrived at a friend's house.

Years ago, Tulsans were annoyed to have a police chief who wanted to deal with the gang problem by refusing to acknowledge the existence of gangs. It's no better to have leaders who admit there's a gang problem but think nothing can be done about it.

Simonson doesn't work as Bartlett Jr's chief of staff any more, but this op-ed certainly reads like an apologia for the appalling murder rate we're enduring under his old pal's administration. And Simonson indicates that Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan not only agrees with his perspective but actually inspired Simonson's thoughts on this topic:

Recently, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan made some good points when he discussed the recent rise in the crime of homicide. He pointed out that the majority of killings come from specific types of situations where the individuals have made some bad decisions. In Tulsa, we've had 54 homicides this year. However, if you look at what makes up that number it isn't as daunting as it may seem. An overview of the homicides so far in 2013 shows that the killings resulting from drug deals going bad account for eight of the killings, 18 were a result of altercations (many of which involved alcohol), and nearly 10 of the killings were tied to either robberies or were gang related.

Homicides, whether gang-related or not, are a measure of the level of danger and disorder in a community. Public safety -- restraining and punishing evildoers -- is government's number one duty, its God-given (literally --- see Romans 13) responsibility. If I can't feel safe in a city shopping on a Sunday afternoon, I'm not going to care about water in the river, a big sports arena, or a new ballpark.

No, we can't expect any mayor to eliminate crime. Crime is a function of the innate leanings of human nature toward evil, amplified by a culture that promotes self-indulgence. A mayor can't fix human nature or the culture, but effective law enforcement can deter and restrain crime nevertheless. We have every right to expect that our municipal leaders will at least try and not make excuses for failure.

UPDATE: Dustbury's Charles G. Hill points out that Simonson's assessment echoes that of a storied east coast mayor. (More quotes from that same mayor here.)

UPDATE 2014/04/18: Gang warfare in the "nice" part of town?

Tulsa police say shots were fired from a Crown Victoria at an SUV while heading westbound on 71st Street.

It started near Memorial and ended at the intersection of 71st and Sheridan, where a third car occupied by a family of four was caught in the middle.

(Also, moved defunct Urban Tulsa link to the Wayback Machine's copy.)

RELATED: Chicago magazine exposé on the creative way the City of Chicago under Mayor Rahm Emanuel is redefining homicide and other crimes and dramatically improving Chicago's crime rate in the process.

Chicago conducted a 12-month examination of the Chicago Police Department's crime statistics going back several years, poring through public and internal police records and interviewing crime victims, criminologists, and police sources of various ranks. We identified 10 people, including Groves, who were beaten, burned, suffocated, or shot to death in 2013 and whose cases were reclassified as death investigations, downgraded to more minor crimes, or even closed as noncriminal incidents--all for illogical or, at best, unclear reasons.

This troubling practice goes far beyond murders, documents and interviews reveal. Chicago found dozens of other crimes, including serious felonies such as robberies, burglaries, and assaults, that were misclassified, downgraded to wrist-slap offenses, or made to vanish altogether. (We'll examine those next month in part 2 of this special report.)

A press release by Kathy Taylor's campaign manager may have accomplished what no amount of celebrity Republican endorsements have been able do: Motivate grassroots conservatives to go to the polls to vote for a man they despise as a RINO, just to make sure Taylor and her inner circle don't get Tulsa City Hall as a platform for their far-left views for the next three years.

A few days ago I received an announcement that Jim Inhofe and a number of Republican state legislators from Tulsa would be appearing at a press conference to reiterate their support for Dewey Bartlett Jr. Didn't strike me as particularly newsworthy. Bartlett Jr has only managed to get the endorsement of Republicans who haven't had to work with him on a daily basis at City Hall. He has yet to win the endorsement of any city councilor who has served alongside him during his time as mayor.

When I mentioned at the kitchen table that Rick Santorum would be speaking in Tulsa to endorse Bartlett Jr, my daughter (who had been very impressed by Santorum's speech at ORU last year) expressed her disappointment. Thanks to Vision2 and the "lawfare" waged against friends of ours on the City Council, there aren't any Bartlett Jr fans in our house. (No Kathy Taylor fans, either.)

If I had had time to go to the event last night, it would have been fun to ask Santorum what he thinks of a mayor who signed a non-discrimination ordinance equating sexual confusion with race, ethnicity, and religion, who then worked to drive the three Republican councilors who voted against that ordinance out of office, who supports giving city benefits to same-sex couples as if they were married, and who backed a massive tax-and-borrow corporate welfare package. That would be the guy you just endorsed, Senator.

I understand what Santorum is doing here. As far as he knows, as far as he's been told, a conservative Republican mayor is in danger of being defeated by a liberal Democrat. Helping with a timely endorsement gives him some credit with Bartlett Jr and local GOP leaders, credit he can redeem when he runs for president in 2016.

This, by the way, is precisely the mechanism by which the Republican runner-up in one presidential season becomes a front-runner in the next. There isn't some RNC subcommittee that decrees, "Well, he finished second last time, so this time it's his turn." The guy who finished second has already built a nationwide network of supporters, and by using his national visibility to help local and state Republican candidates and party organizations, he's adding to the number of people who will feel obliged to support him when he runs again.

A Democrat cannot win a city-wide office in Tulsa if the Republican manages to turn the race into a partisan affair. Bartlett Jr won in 2009 by tying Barack Obama around Tom Adelson's neck (even though Bartlett Jr endorsed Obama donor Kathy Taylor for re-election earlier in that same year), and he's trying the same approach this year. He needs Republicans who don't pay attention to City Hall to show up at the polls and vote the party line.

Taylor needs conservative Republicans who are rightfully disgruntled with Bartlett Jr to stay home. She needs them to see her as non-ideological, non-threatening, maybe no better than Bartlett Jr, but no worse. Kathy Taylor needs to downplay her enthusiastic participation in Michael Bloomberg's coalition of gun-grabbing mayors, her decision to sign Tulsa up for the global-warming snake-oil caravan, her generous support of Harry Reid, Barack Obama, and other far-left candidates. She's trying a theme that Michael Dukakis tried, without success, in 1988: Competence, not ideology.

But Taylor's campaign manager just let the mask slip.

Taylor Campaign Manager Monroe Nichols released a statement Thursday, criticizing Santorum's participation in local events.

"At a time when rape is up in Tulsa, it is shocking that Dewey Bartlett would bring a DC politician with an abysmal record on women's issues here to try to tell Tulsans what is important to them," Nichols said, sticking to the campaign's current strategy of focusing on Tulsa's crime rates under the Bartlett administration.

(Here's the full press release.)

Pro-life conservatives recognize Nichols's use of left-wing code words. "An abysmal record on women's issues" is code for being consistently pro-life and anti-abortion, as if killing unborn children is the only issue women care about. Nichols exacerbates the gaffe by connecting Santorum's pro-life record with the frequency of rape in Tulsa, as if defending unborn girls and boys against the violence of abortion is an act of violence against women.

Nichols's remark is revealing not just because Taylor's campaign manager holds those views about Santorum, but evidently no one else in the Taylor campaign has enough respect for pro-life conservatives to understand how offensive Nichols's statement would be to Tulsa voters. This wasn't an off-the-cuff remark, but an edited press release.

Someone without left-wing blinders would realize that the Republicans who are most unenthused about another Bartlett Jr term are the same sort of Republicans who helped Santorum to a first-place finish statewide and here in Tulsa's 1st Congressional District in Oklahoma's 2012 presidential primary. By unmasking the Kathy Taylor campaign as hostile to our most deeply rooted concerns, Monroe Nichols may have roused these conservatives to show up on election day, clothespin firmly gripping the nose, and vote for Bartlett Jr, just to keep Kathy Taylor and her liberal pals out of office.

Dan Keating, a conservative Republican, recently appointed by Gov. Mary Fallin to the State Board of Education, has written a scathing column in the Tulsa Beacon denouncing Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr's campaign for pushing party affiliation over his performance as mayor and saying that it's time for Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr to return to the private sector.

Keating says that Bartlett Jr "has made little effort in cultivating former Councilor Bill Christiansen supporters, who are pivotal to winning re-election." Keating agrees with former Mayor Kathy Taylor's argument that the primary results show that 2/3rds of Tulsa voters are dissatisfied with Bartlett Jr's record. Calling Bartlett Jr an "absentee mayor with practically no vision for the future or plan for today," Keating concludes, "We've given the mayor every opportunity to produce. He doesn't own the job. It's time for Dewey to return to Keener Oil."

Keating notes the lack of cranes in the air and the lack of serious economic development. Bartlett Jr's claim of 7,000 jobs created in the metro area over the last four years doesn't impress Keating:

That makes it 146 jobs per month. This column reported the state of Utah gaining 18,000 California jobs in just one month. Why? Because they worked on it and called in California. As the Utah governor's office reported they had "boots on the ground."

Keating is also upset with Bartlett Jr's absence from meetings of key public authorities on which Tulsa's mayor serves as an ex officio member, noting two authorities in particular, the Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) and the Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy (TARE), which oversees Tulsa's trash system. An audit of EMSA by State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones turned up extravagant spending by the CEO and criticized the board for a lack of oversight.

Another out of control authority that Mayor Bartlett sits on is Tulsa's TARE Board. Tare is short for Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy. TARE as you may recall had worked itself out of a job, but since no bureaucracy ever lets itself simply vanish, the authority reworked Tulsa's trash collection system, borrowed millions of dollars and charged ahead. Competent trash haulers were fired and new pricing policies implemented. Most service billings doubled. Green waste required special tags and clear trash bags.

But, it was worth it. Right? Wrong.

The green waste recovery equipment never worked. So for a year, Mayor Bartlett's people postured, burned all the trash together and kept the money. The mayor's excuse was that he missed most of those board meetings.

Republicans who pay more attention to state and national politics than City Hall may be surprised, if not shocked, that a solid Republican like Dan Keating would endorse against the re-election of a Republican mayor. They may be tempted to dismiss Keating as a RINO. (Oddly, the same people seem unwilling to dismiss Bartlett Jr as a RINO for his 2009 endorsement of Taylor's re-election.)

It's an indication of Bartlett Jr's skill at burning bridges that many Republicans who pay close attention to what's happening at City Hall are unwilling to endorse him for re-election. Lawsuits against councilors, support for Vision2, gerrymandering, an apparent lack of interest and leadership in the important decisions made by the City's authorities, boards, and commissions have all served to alienate local GOP activists. Many of these Republicans would be willing to forgive him for being bumbling or naive, if those were the only problems, but there's a layer of nasty and vengeful on top of the bumbling and naivete that makes reconciliation impossible. When someone has put you in the position of having to hire an attorney and has never bothered to apologize, you're not going to lend your support to his reelection campaign.

As far as I am aware, no city councilor who has served during Bartlett Jr's term as mayor -- none of the nine that he mostly chased out of office, none of the nine who replaced them -- has endorsed him. The Fraternal Order of Police, which has endorsed Republicans and Democrats in the past, voted unanimously to endorse Taylor. Had Bartlett Jr and his team not burned so many bridges with his fellow Republicans, he would be a shoo-in for re-election.

Oklahomans for Life, an organization that works for pro-life legislation at the State Capitol and publishes candidate questionnaires on abortion, euthanasia, and related issues, has noted Tulsa mayoral candidate Kathy Taylor's financial support for Emily's List, a political action committee that requires a radical pro-abortion litmus test of any candidates seeking its support. The OfL press release:

Radical Abortion Group Supporter Kathy Taylor
Opposing Pro-Life Mayor Dewey Bartlett in
November 12 Tulsa Mayor's Race

Kathy Taylor, a big financial supporter of the radical pro-abortion organization Emily's List, is running against pro-life incumbent Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett in a tight race in the November 12 city of Tulsa election.

Kathy Taylor made her most recent contribution to the radical pro-abortion group in April of this year, after she was already running for mayor of Tulsa.

Emily's List is a single-issue pro-abortion political action committee which supports only hard-core pro-abortion candidates who hold the most extreme pro-abortion positions on public policy issues. They require that their endorsed candidates support such radical pro-abortion measures as partial-birth abortion and taxpayer-funded abortion on demand.

Dewey Bartlett, the incumbent Tulsa Mayor, is a strong supporter of the right to life. He is an outspoken defender of the lives of unborn children.

Dewey Bartlett is the son of the late Dewey F. Bartlett, Sr., Governor of Oklahoma in the 1960's and United States Senator from Oklahoma in the 1970's. The late Senator Bartlett was one of the leading pro-life champions in Congress during his years in the U.S. Senate.

Using the federal campaign contribution database at OpenSecrets.org, I find one contribution by Taylor to Emily's List, $250 on April 9, 2013. I looked through all Taylor and Lobeck contributions in Oklahoma and Florida to be sure I didn't miss anything, as Taylor has sometimes been listed with her husband's name, her maiden name, with and without her middle initial, and with home addresses in Tulsa and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Taylor's contributions are overwhelmingly directed to Democrat candidates and party organizations, including Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Chris Coons, Elizabeth Warren, the DNC Services Corp, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Party of Oklahoma. She has been generous in support of pro-abortion, left-wing control of the federal government.

Taylor has made a handful of federal contributions to Republicans over the years: Marc Nuttle, Slade Gorton, Michael Flanagan, Bill McCollum, and, famously, George W. Bush.

Here's how Kathy Taylor explained her contributions to Bush and other Republicans to La Semana Del Sur, during her 2006 Democratic primary:

"There are times, both in business and in politics, when you need a seat at the table," describing her contributions to members of the opposing party as a method of facilitating dialogue rather than an indication of ideological support.

Bartlett Jr's federal contributions since 1990 have been exclusively to Republican candidates, with one exception: A $250 contribution to 2nd District Congressman Dan Boren in 2008. Bartlett Jr also was the poster boy for Republicans for Kathy Taylor in 2009, before Taylor dropped out of her bid for re-election.

As I noted in 2006, even though abortion isn't often an issue at City Hall, it does come up from time to time. In 1996 and 1997, the City of Tulsa, under Democrat mayor Susan Savage, steered some of its federal block grant to Planned Parenthood of Eastern Oklahoma, the local affiliate of America's leading abortion provider. In 1998, there were enough pro-life councilors to stop the grants to Planned Parenthood, which have never resumed.

In the same article, I offered three reasons, not directly related to a mayor's duties, why pro-life issues matter in local elections:

  1. A candidate's views on the sanctity of human life tell you something fundamental about his worldview and values.
  2. A local office can be a stepping stone to higher office where life issues arise more often. By electing a pro-abortion-rights candidate to local office, you are giving her a line on her resumé that may help her defeat a pro-life candidate in a race for state or federal office.
  3. In particular, a pro-abortion-rights mayor can use that position to raise money for pro-abortion-rights candidates for state and federal office. If you do business with city government, and the Mayor sends you an invitation to a fundraiser for her friend the candidate for State Senate, you'll send a check in order to stay on her good side, even if the candidate's ideology is antithetical to your own.

While these remain considerations, in Kathy Taylor's case the latter two concerns haven't yet played out. After her term as mayor, she did not run for higher office and, however much money she gave and raised for Oklahoma Democratic candidates and organizations, it has had no impact on Republican majorities in the legislature and GOP dominance of our federal delegation and all statewide offices.

CORRECTION: I am informed that my inference concerning Cheryl Cohenour's service on the TARE board, based on frequent news reports mentioning her as a board member prior to 2011, was incorrect. Taylor campaign research director Joey Wignarajah contacted me (directly this time) and provided me with TARE board minutes documenting Cheryl Cohenour's 2008 departure and 2011 return.

In 2008, Cohenour was replaced on the TARE board by Taylor's appointment of Michael Pierce. The City Council confirmed Pierce's appointment on October 30, 2008. Cohenour was brought back to the board by Bartlett Jr to replace Stephen Schuller and was confirmed by the Council on March 3, 2011.

The TARE minutes, as far as I can tell, are not available online, and the City Council agenda archives continue to be unsearchable (but I'm working to change that). I found no news reports of Cohenour's departure or her return. Wignarajah said he had to file an open records request to get copies of the TARE minutes.

The reason for Cohenour's departure in 2008 would affect the way we interpret her return in 2011. Did she step aside on her own initiative? Did Taylor decide not to reappoint Cohenour because Taylor disagreed with her views on the new trash service? Or did Taylor not reappoint Cohenour because she was unlikely to win confirmation from a City Council unhappy with the proposed new approach to trash service?

I have revised this article in light of this new information. Notwithstanding the interruption in Cohenour's service, it still appears to be the case that four of the seven TARE members (Anderson, Berlin, Bowles, Pierce) who approved the bid documents -- the requirements for the new trash service, the basis upon which proposals were evaluated and a winner selected -- were holdovers from the Taylor administration. Between the time the bid documents were approved and the contract was awarded, Bartlett Jr appointed Councilor David Patrick to replace one of the four, Beverly Anderson, the fallout of a series of disputes involving board members and contractors. There is no question that the essential features of the new trash service were defined and in use for the pilot program that was conducted while Taylor was mayor and an ex officio board member.

A few weeks ago, word reached me that the Kathy Taylor camp was displeased with a blog entry in which I opined that the former Tulsa mayor deserved an equal share of the blame with current mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr for our transition from a trash system that Tulsans overwhelmingly liked to one that has had numerous problems.

Here's what I wrote:

Whoever wins, we'll still be stuck with the complicated and messy trash system imposed upon us by board members that Kathy appointed and Dewey re-appointed (or didn't bother to replace).

The counterclaim from the Taylor camp came in the form of an anonymous Word document that bore (in the document's properties) the name of Joey Wignarajah, research director for the Taylor campaign. The document claimed that my assertion about who appointed the board members was incorrect.

There are seven TARE board members: The mayor (or his proxy) and six appointees. They are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council to serve a three-year term.

An appointee continues to serve until a replacement is appointed, even if his term has expired. The mayor can keep a member in office without the council's confirmation by simply refusing to reappoint the current member or to appoint a replacement. While we passed a charter amendment a few years ago to allow the council to make an appointment if the mayor delays for more than two months, the City Attorney opined that that provision didn't apply to authorities like TARE which were created by state law. Bartlett Jr chose not to make new appointments to replace three of Taylor's appointees on the board (Bowles, Powell, Schuller) until the major decisions about the new trash service were made.

Bartlett maintains that he wants to keep the three members because of their experience and the major service decisions that are looming for the trash board as its long-term hauling contracts expire.

In July 2010, the City Council had rejected Bartlett Jr's reappointment of Bowles, Powell, and Schuller, all of whom were Taylor holdovers. The Councilors wanted new board members who would be responsive to citizen desires to keep what they liked about our trash service.

The document from the Taylor campaign acknowledges that Steve Berlin, William Bowles, and Michael Pierce were her appointees, but it cites Cheryl Cohenour as originally a Bartlett Jr appointee with a starting date of service of 3/4/11.

I recalled that Cohenour had served on the TARE board at least as early as 1998. She was Anna Falling's leading antagonist during the controversy over trash rates and Falling's attempt at a free recycling pilot program. Based on Cohenour's departure at the expiration of her term in 2013, her $500 contribution to Taylor's 2006 campaign, her frequent appearance as a key TARE board member in news stories during the Taylor administration, and no news reports of her departure or return, I assumed that Cohenour's service on the board was continuous, and that Taylor must have either reappointed her or allowed her to continue without reappointment. That turned out not to be the case. Taylor did not reappoint Cohenour in 2008 and instead appointed Michael Pierce.

So it's true that, when the new contract was awarded, only three of the seven members of the TARE board had been appointed by Taylor.

More significant, however, is the date when the request for proposals (RFP) was issued. At that point the shape of the new system -- defined by the requirements that the winning bidder would have to meet -- was set in stone. At that point four of the seven board members (Anderson, Berlin, Bowles, Pierce), a majority, had been appointed or retained by Taylor. Randy Sullivan and Cheryl Cohenour were the only new Bartlett appointees (plus City Manager Jim Twombly as the mayor's ex officio designee).

It could be argued that the groundwork for the bid documents was laid while there were even more Taylor appointees still on board. Sullivan had been confirmed only six weeks before the bid documents were issued, replacing Taylor appointee Steve Powell, and Sullivan and the rest of the board declined to change the bid documents in response to a request by the City Council to have bidders also include a price for continuing traditional trash service (twice-a-week, customer-supplied bins). The implication is that the process of preparing the bid documents began much earlier in the year, and Sullivan's arrival didn't herald any major changes in TARE policy.

Going back even further, the fundamental features of the new trash system were well-formed over three years earlier, during the Taylor administration. The pilot program for the new system was launched by the TARE board while Taylor was mayor and an ex officio member of the board (either in person or through her designee). A November 5, 2007, story shows that all the basic elements were in place -- mechanically lifted, standard city-issued carts, and half the service for nearly the same cost.

Eventually, a plan to change all twice-a-week service routes to the new once-a-week service by 2011 is expected to be presented to the council.

"I really think this is the future of Tulsa's trash collection," said Joe Moran, chairman of the Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy....

Each residence was provided with one 96-gallon, wheeled trash cart and an 18-gallon recycling bin. Smaller sizes of carts also were available.

The monthly curbside service fee for the program is $12.52, which includes recycling pickup regardless of whether the customer chooses to recycle....

Cheryl Cohenour, who heads up the authority's long-range planning committee, said it has been the panel's goal to adopt a uniform service across the city.

"We're going to have to do a lot of education to get people prepared," she said. "Change can be difficult. But these survey results show it's possible."

A February 1, 2008, story shows that the Council was expressing concern that the pilot program was not producing enough savings to the ratepayer to justify the added inconvenience, and that the trash board understood that there were political issues surrounding the changes:

Some councilors have argued that the program, which has converted five routes to once-a-week, cart-based service that includes recycling, should provide a better savings.

The program's monthly curbside rate is $12.37, compared with the normal $13.44 rate for the twice-a-week service without recycling....

The trash board is looking to hire a management and engineering consulting firm, R.W. Beck, to help explore its options for a uniform trash service across the city and to look at the long-term savings that could be realized by switching Tulsa's standard service....

Board members hope to have some information in hand before the end of May to help persuade councilors to continue the pilot program.

"That's going to be a major political hurdle for us to overcome," said Joe Moran, the trash board's chairman.

A May 7, 2008, story has Cohenour urging the council to extend the pilot program another six months, with the council dubious about cutting service in half while only cutting $1.07 a month off of the rates.

In September 2009, Taylor appointed the Mayor's Task Force on Refuse and Recycling. A year later, the task force Taylor appointed recommended a trash service with substantially the same features that were ultimately included in the new system.

Throughout Kathy Taylor's term of office from April 2006 through November 2009, questions and concerns about the new system were being raised, and Taylor could have used her power of appointment and her seat on the board to shift it to a more customer-oriented direction. But she didn't.

Dewey Bartlett Jr had enough time to replace a majority of the TARE board prior to the finalization of the bid documents and to take advantage of his ex officio position on the board to revise the board's plans. Instead, Bartlett Jr expressly chose to keep Taylor appointees on the board while all the important decisions were being made, despite the objections of city councilors.

If you don't like paying twice the price for the service you used to have (or almost the same price for half the service), if you don't like the automated trucks leaving every cart on your block in the middle of the street on trash pickup day, if you don't like mandatory carts with loose lids that let vermin in and odors out, both Kathy Taylor and Dewey Bartlett Jr deserve the blame. Either one of them could have exerted leadership to ensure that the new system retained the features Tulsans liked about the old trash service, but neither did. Both Taylor and Bartlett Jr stood by while an unelected board radically transformed a basic service of local government, over the objections of the citizens.

MORE from the Taylor mayoralty:

Tulsa World (OK) - Wednesday, July 9, 2008: With trash plan canned, carts now in contention:

At a May trash board meeting, member Cheryl Cohenour talked about participants getting to keep the carts and the board reimbursing the independent haulers for the cost.

But since that time, it apparently was decided that the haulers would instead pick up the carts.

The City Council last month signaled the end of the yearlong program, which converted the routes to a once-a-week, cart-based service that included recycling, by allowing it to expire.

The routes this week reverted to the city's standard twice-a-week service.

Councilors expressed frustration about the meager savings experienced by participants and were reluctant to change a service that most residents enjoy.

Curbside collection rates for the pilot program were $12.37 per month compared with the $13.44 per month for the twice-a-week service.

Former Councilor and mayoral candidate Bill Christiansen announced today that, having met this week with Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr to discuss his concerns, he has decided not to endorse Bartlett Jr.

According to Christansen, Bartlett told him he doesn't have a platform for his second term in office and "will not talk about one out of fear that people will hold him accountable" for delivering on his promises.

Christiansen also took issue with Bartlett Jr's frequently-repeated campaign claim that Kathy Taylor drove Tulsa to the brink of bankruptcy. There was never any danger of that, not because Taylor was a good steward of the city's budget (she wasn't and neither has Bartlett Jr been), but because of state laws and constitutional provisions that require a balanced budget.

In early 2010, Fire Chief Allan LaCroix said, "The layoffs have to occur by February 15th, or the city's in the position it may have to file bankruptcy. That's how serious this situation is," but he quickly walked the statement back, saying, "It's just a term." At the time, Dewey Bartlett Jr disavowed the idea that Tulsa was going bankrupt:

Mayor Dewey Bartlett says the reality is the city is "not in the throes of bankruptcy."

The News On 6 caught up with the mayor just before he flew to Dallas to participate a business recruiting trip.

"If we don't take action today, tomorrow, soon, in several months, six months, 12 months from now, we could be, serious financial problems," said Dewey Bartlett.

At that same point in his term, Bartlett Jr did not blame Taylor for the city's financial difficulties:

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

The Vision2 package that Bartlett Jr supported and that Taylor failed to oppose is exactly the sort of thing that now-bankrupt cities in California did to get themselves in financial trouble. Unwilling to wait to start a new tax package until a current tax package expired, they borrowed and spent money now, using as collateral revenues that wouldn't begin coming in for many years.

So far as I am aware, Bartlett Jr has yet to gain the endorsement of any current or former member of the Tulsa City Council who has served alongside him during his term as Tulsa mayor.

Here is the full news release from Bill Christiansen:

Bill Christiansen says he won't support Dewey Bartlett for mayor

At a time when budgets matter the most, Tulsans need transparency and accountability at City Hall. Former mayoral candidate Bill Christiansen today announced that he would not support Bartlett for mayor.

"I'm a real conservative, and Dewey Bartlett is not," Christiansen said. "He is a tax-and-spend liberal, he has supported a permanent new tax increase and proposed the largest levels in city spending in our history, and he has worked to grow government and the bureaucracy. Perhaps even worse, he has done it with no sense of transparency and accountability toward Tulsans. For so many reasons - almost too many to count, I cannot endorse Dewey Bartlett for mayor and I will not vote for him. He is not what Tulsa needs and he does not reflect the conservative principles I believe in."

Christiansen said he met with Bartlett this week to talk about the many issues that concerned him and was deeply disappointed at the lack of response. He said he asked the mayor what his platform for the future was. "His response - he doesn't have a platform and will not talk about one out of fear that people will hold him accountable. He actually admitted he does not want to be held accountable. At the core, elected officials should be held accountable and we now have a mayor that runs from accountability, has no commitment to transparency, is a tax-and-spender who pushed for a permanent tax. We cannot elect him."

Christiansen also criticized Bartlett for repeatedly saying his opponent, Kathy Taylor, spent the city to near bankruptcy when she was mayor. "I was on the council when Kathy was mayor. We were NEVER going bankrupt. In very challenging economic times, the Mayor and the Council worked together and made tough choices to ensure the budget was balanced every month."

Christiansen attacked Bartlett's "irresponsible fiscal practice" of proposing revenue budgets that are unprecedented. Mayor Bartlett's last three budgets are the largest in Tulsa's history. He over budgets and now he wants a permanent tax increase to grow city government."

Christiansen said another factor that made it impossible for him to support Bartlett is the mayor's well-known practice of not attending the majority of meetings of the boards and authorities he has a seat on, and for continuing to serve as full-time president of his business while taking a $105,000 salary as mayor. "Tulsa needs and deserves a full time mayor," he said.

Christiansen said he would not have put his name on the ballot if he had thought Bartlett was doing a good job, but said after the primary he felt he owed it to his supporters to take a close look at both candidates in the race before deciding who he would support. The recent spate of stories about the lack of transparency and accountability at City Hall just reaffirmed his belief that Bartlett is not fit for the job, he said.

"There have been so many stories that have come to light recently on the lack of transparency and accountability at City Hall. Green Waste and the trash system, 911 Center, Open Records - the list goes on and on. You're either committed to transparency and accountability or you are not. The fact that he is willing to say that he knew nothing about the green waste problems and recently went on KRMG to blame citizens for putting their green waste in the trash, shows just how much he tries to shirk responsibility and accountability."

Christiansen, a former Marine Corps Officer, said he is hopeful that Dewey Bartlett will not try to attack him and try to discredit him because of his announcement. Christiansen is hopeful to see a new campaign pattern from Dewey Bartlett that is not negative as shown in the primary.

P.S.: On a personal note, the outcome of Christiansen's private meeting with Bartlett Jr makes me glad I've decided that private meetings with the candidates wouldn't be worth my time.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just got an email from the Tulsa County Republican Party announcing volunteer door-knocking days on behalf of Dewey Bartlett Jr, running for re-election as Mayor of Tulsa. Although this is officially a non-partisan race, both candidates are closely identified with their respective parties, and both were elected to their first terms on a partisan ballot.

Several things about the email were surprising. Five dates were listed, and of those five, only three were going to be staffed by the Tulsa County Republican Party. One date was for the Rogers County Republican Party and another for the Washington County Republican Party. The City of Tulsa has no territory in Washington County, and only a narrow fenceline in Rogers County. Occasionally you have as many as two Rogers County voters who show up to vote in a city election. The email address for the point of contact for the effort is that of the Oklahoma Republican Party's northeastern field rep.

I can understand why the state GOP would be concerned. Kathy Taylor has the means to self-fund a campaign for higher office, threatening solid GOP control of the State Capitol and Oklahoma's congressional delegation. A defeat in November, one presumes, would put an end to any ambitions for higher office.

On the other hand, consider that Democrat Susan Savage was mayor for 10 years, left office without ever being defeated, and was considered a potential candidate for higher office, but she has never even made the attempt. Her only post-mayoral position has been her appointment as Secretary of State by a fellow Democrat, Gov. Brad Henry. If she ran to be a senator or congressman or governor, Kathy Taylor would have to run for office as a Democrat, and her views on national and ideological issues would come to the fore. Republicans who might be comfortable with her as mayor would block her from election to a legislature where the numbers of Ds and Rs determines overall control.

Taylor herself seems to have had a couple of ripe opportunities to move up into state or national elective politics, but she hasn't. Presumably her pollsters tell her she can't win statewide or even CD1-wide right now.

It's sad that Bartlett Jr can't muster enough enthusiasm among Republicans in the City of Tulsa to get them to knock doors for him. I imagine that many Republican activists were turned off by Bartlett Jr's endorsement of Taylor's re-election, his hostility toward the Republican-majority council that served during the first half of the term, and by what appears to be at best a chilly relationship with the councilors who replaced them (most of them with the support of Bartlett Jr's allies). Not to mention his support for gay-rights legislation and the Vision2 pork-barrel and corporate welfare county tax. (Not that Taylor is any better on those issues.) I still have yet to hear of a current councilor who endorses Bartlett Jr's re-election.

I imagine that the Democratic Party is as anxious to get Taylor elected as the Republicans are to prevent it, and that they too are importing out-of-town Democratic activists to support her campaign.

So our first-ever non-partisan mayoral election has become a proxy battle between the two major national parties. The motivating issue for politicos outside our city limits (and for some inside) is whether the Democrats' best hope for breaking the Republican monopoly in Oklahoma will have or will be deprived of Tulsa City Hall as a platform from which to run for higher office.

But the question on the minds of many Tulsans: What difference will November's result make to the way city government is run? Whether it's Taylor or Bartlett Jr, the same "leading Tulsa citizens" -- the usual suspects -- will be appointed to authorities, boards, and commissions. Whether it's Bartlett Jr or Taylor, the same guy who has been around since the Randle Administration will oversee urban planning and serve as the Mayor's proxy on the Planning Commission.* Whoever wins, we'll still be stuck with the complicated and messy trash system imposed upon us by board members that Kathy appointed and Dewey re-appointed (or didn't bother to replace). Whoever wins will fall all over himself or herself to back the Tulsa Regional Chamber's latest wheeze.

*NOTE: Dwain Midget appears in news reports as early as February 7, 1991, as the Mayor's representative on the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. The description in the linked article is incorrect: the Mayor does have a vote on the TMAPC, a vote which which has been exercised by Mr. Midget on the Mayor's behalf for over 22 years under five different mayors from both major parties. Many neighborhood association leaders have long seen Midget as a consistent vote for the development lobby and hostile to neighborhood concerns. If there really were any significant differences in policy between the last five mayors, wouldn't a new mayor have bothered to replace someone in such a key role with someone closer to the new mayor's perspective?

I have friends on both sides of the upcoming Tulsa mayoral election who have asked me if I'd be willing to meet with their respective candidate, a private meeting where I could voice my concerns and the candidate would make his or her case for my support.

It's not that I command masses of voters, but I do have some influence, and one of a candidate's jobs is to win over influencers. In a close election, anyone with any size following could make the difference between winning and losing.

A friend called yesterday to set up just such a meeting. I told my friend what I had decided, but had not yet announced: I won't be meeting with either candidate.

Here's what usually happens in these meetings: The candidate butters up his guest, telling him how valuable he is to the community, even if the candidate reviles him. The candidate encourages his guest to talk about his concerns. If all goes well and the guest is talkative, the candidate can just sit and nod sympathetically. If the guest has pointed questions, the candidate may have to find ways to avoid answering the questions while sounding like he's given a definitive answer. There may be a hint of a promise of an appointment to a commission or an initiative to address one of the guest's concerns. Of course, such promises are unenforceable, and only a sucker would believe them. Indeed, anything a candidate says in a private meeting is written on water.

What would be the point of a private meeting?

The candidates know I don't trust either one of them. I've compiled long lists of the foolish and evil things they've each done in office. I've voiced my concerns with each of them publicly and at length.

I've also been very public and vocal about what Tulsa isn't doing but should be, and vice versa.

If they want to win my support, they can speak and act publicly to address my concerns, and I'll take those public commitments and actions into consideration.

Life is busy. I have three growing kids who need and deserve increasing amounts of my attention. I live with a certain amount of guilt for all the hours I spent writing about city politics rather than playing board games and reading books. My day job is going well -- plenty of work and plenty of new projects coming in the door. I have plenty of projects around the house and yard that need my attention.

Why should I waste any of my precious time arranging a meeting with a politician so he or she can tell me sweet little lies?

NOTICE: Any phone call to me from a mayoral candidate or his/her representative will be recorded and may be published in whole or in part here on BatesLine. Likewise, any email or other written communication from a mayoral candidate or his/her representative is on the record and may be published in whole or in part here on BatesLine.

Today, August 13, 2013, the polls will be open in southern Tulsa County, including the southern part of midtown Tulsa, for the special general election to replace retiring Tulsa County District 3 Commissioner Fred Perry. On the ballot are former State Rep. Ron Peters, who heads a public relations firm, and Tulsa County field construction supervisor John Bomar. The Tulsa World and the political arm of the Metropolitan Tulsa Regional Metro Chamber of Commerce have endorsed Peters. The winner will face a run for re-election next year when Perry's term expires.

In a May forum at TCC, both candidates indicated support for additional county sales tax propositions.

Rogers County voters will be asked to renew a one-cent county sales tax. 7/8ths of the cent will go to roads and bridges; 1/8th will go to help pay down a hefty legal judgment against the county. Here's how the Tulsa World's Rhett Morgan described the judgment:

Material Service Corp. filed the action against the county in 2000. The company wasn't seeking monetary damages but wanted a determination by the court that the county had improperly annexed the property leased by Material Service, preventing it from mining there, an attorney for the company said.

After a change-of-venue request was granted, the inverse condemnation case went to trial in Mayes County in 2009, with the jury awarding Material Service $12.5 million. Prejudgment and post-judgment interest, attorneys fees and costs since the 2009 jury verdict pushed the amount to more than $32 million.

Annexation? I am pretty sure that Oklahoma counties cannot unilaterally change their own boundaries by annexation. Rogers County lost territory to Tulsa County about 100 years ago, but its boundaries have been utterly stable for the last century.

What appears to have happened is that the City of Claremore-Rogers County Metropolitan Area Planning Commission added the land that Material Service Corp. had leased for limestone quarrying to the unincorporated land subject to county zoning, followed by county zoning to prohibit the quarrying that MSC wanted to do. This was done without proper notice, and MSC sued the county for the economic damages they suffered for misusing their zoning power. Looks like a case of trying to close the barn door just as the horses were escaping, if the horses had a high-powered trial lawyer to argue their case.

A proposed hotel/office/retail development in the Bob Wills District that was stymied in 2008 by Mayor Kathy Taylor and the Tulsa Development Authority now looks to move forward, five years later and after a lawsuit and settlement.

The half-block west of Elgin between Archer and Brady is owned by the Tulsa Development Authority. Currently a parking lot, it was previously home to a Fuelman unattended gas station. Developers Will Wilkins and Cecilia Wilkins (Will's mother) plan to build a four- to five-story building with retail on the ground floor, office space on the second floor, and hotel rooms on the upper floors. They have a tentative agreement with the TDA; final agreement is expected at the TDA's August 1 meeting.

In December 2007, a TDA staffer suggested to the Wilkinses, who had worked with the TDA on a number of previous infill projects, that they consider developing the site, across the street from the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce's planned mixed-use development.

Planning and negotiations were moving along smoothly for several months, until then-Mayor Kathy Taylor set out to get the Tulsa Drillers in a new ballpark downtown. Long story short, in August 2008, the TDA cancelled the Wilkinses' exclusive negotiating rights to the site -- part of an effort to control all the land around the ballpark -- the Wilkinses sued, and the suit was finally settled a few days before going to trial in June 2012.

You can read a detailed account of how Taylor and the TDA treated the Wilkinses in the BatesLine archives:

The Control Freaks' Squeeze Play: The history of the proposed development, who made it unravel, and the damage done to Tulsa as a place for creative entrepreneurs.

TDA chairman's letter announcing intent to terminate Wilkinses' exclusive negotiating period, and Kathy Taylor's response

Novus Homes sues City of Tulsa for interference: In 2009, The Wilkinses added the City of Tulsa and Kathy Taylor to their lawsuit against TDA. This entry explains
what they learned in discovery that led them to add the City and Taylor to the suit.

That last link also has links to other BatesLine articles covering the dispute.

My dilemma in this November's mayoral election is that both candidates have, as mayor, badly mistreated good people trying to do good things for Tulsa and have hurt the City's reputation and progress in the process. I'm not talking about oversights or mistakes, but deliberate actions. There are plenty of examples in Dewey Bartlett's column, but this is one of many in Kathy Taylor's column -- a positive downtown development had to wait five years longer than necessary because of her bulldozer approach to the ballpark deal. If either Bartlett or Taylor were truly repentant for their bad actions -- publicly acknowledged what he or she did wrong, why it was wrong, and how he or she plans to ensure that he or she acts with integrity in the future -- it would go a long way toward winning my support.

As of June 12, 2013, I'm only aware of two endorsements: Henderson and Ewing, both for Taylor. I will update this table as additional endorsements are announced.

District Councilor Party Endorsing
1 Jack Henderson D Taylor
2 Jeannie Cue R
3 David Patrick D
4 Blake Ewing R Taylor
5 Karen Gilbert R
6 Skip Steele R
7 Adrianna Moore R
8 Phil Lakin R
9 G. T. Bynum R

From the Christiansen campaign office:

Bill Christiansen ran for Mayor of ALL Tulsa and ran because he wanted to represent the citizens of Tulsa not special interest groups. He was out spent nearly 10-1 and started out at 9% and consistently raised to 24%.

These may be worth boasting about later but the most important aspect of this election is that Bill Christiansen brought attention to many important issues in Tulsa such as; The city parks that were being bulldozed, Public Safety issues, street funding, and neighborhood code issues. He is the first candidate in Tulsa history and maybe in Oklahoma history to receive respected endorsements from BOTH sides of the aisle. He gained support from Roscoe Turner, the NAACP president, and the city workers union on the left to Tea party groups, and the Gun Owners of America association on the right.

The pressure for Mr. Christiansen to endorse either of his remaining opponents in a lightening like speed is unwarranted at this time. A statement will be made in late July or early August in regards to any endorsements that may or may not happen. For now Mr. Christiansen will be leaving to go catch a New York Mets ballgame while on business and take some additional family time. Upon his return he will be meeting with both remaining candidates and will be issuing a statement in the above referenced time frame. His decision will be be based solely on what is best for the great city of Tulsa. Mr. Christiansen asks his supporters to continue to encourage each other and be positive in order to continue the demeanor of his campaign.

All the precincts are in. You can download the precinct-level results for the June 11, 2013 elections statewide here. It's the last link on the page, it's a zip file, and it contains a CSV file that you can open in your spreadsheet program or query with your database software.

As a friend put it, Tulsa now has a choice between a Ferengi and ...

Conservatives will have a tough choice in November: If Taylor wins, she's a threat to move up the political ladder for the Democrats. Then again, if Taylor wins, Republicans should be able to unite to defeat her bad ideas (although that didn't work so well last time around). If Bartlett wins, a certain number of Republicans will feel obliged to defend -- yea, even celebrate -- his most ill-considered plans.

At first glance, the numbers give me the impression that Dewey Bartlett Jr will be toast in November. His Midtown Money Belt base went strongly for Kathy Taylor -- in many precincts a clear majority for Taylor. Bartlett Jr's only hope is to tie Taylor to Obama and turn out south and east Tulsa Republicans, as he did in 2009. But Taylor won't give Bartlett Jr as much to work with in that regard as Tom Adelson did. The lack of a party label on the ballot won't help either. Taylor seems to be able, on the one hand, to mobilize activist liberal Democrats with "dog whistles" and back-channel communications while, on the other hand, presenting herself to the broader electorate as above partisan politics.

Christiansen finished first in only 20 precincts. He won several north Tulsa precincts between Pine and Admiral, Utica and Hudson (16, 17, 19, 20, 25). Christiansen won a number of precincts on the far periphery of the city: The western part of Red Fork (143), the furthest west precinct on the Sand Springs Line (149), the precinct in the far northeast corner (23), several far east Tulsa precincts (41, 42, 43, 53, 57, 58, 61, 101; Wagoner County precinct 101), and the only voter who turned out in Osage Co. precinct 205. He edged out Bartlett in ORU's precinct 162 -- a very low turnout of 30 voters with school out for the summer.

Christiansen received only 29.5% of the vote in the old boundaries of Council District 8, finishing first in only one precinct (159). Christiansen barely edged out Taylor, who had 28.9% of the vote in that area.

The city auditor's race is all over bar the shouting. 47.4% and a 29-point lead over the next nearest rival means almost certain victory in the runoff, and you have to imagine that a significant number of Lewis supporters are unhappy enough with incumbent Richards to support Criswell in the next round. By my visual scan of the results, Criswell finished first in all but four precincts.

In the County Commission race, there was a dramatic drop-off in turnout for non-City of Tulsa precincts. John Wright and Don Crall each did well in their home territories of Broken Arrow and Bixby respectively, but they failed to turn out voters in those areas. Their share of the votes combined would have been enough to finish second. Had Wright and Crall united behind one candidate and also driven up turnout in the out-of-Tulsa precincts, even slightly, the unity candidate would have won the primary.

KOTV News on 6 won the prize for fastest results. The KOKI/KRMG team and KJRH each had runners, and each showed some early results, but they were stuck at about 5% and 11% reporting respectively as KOTV quickly moved about 50% reporting. My guess is that KOTV planned to pick up every precinct; perhaps the other two planned to get a few key or nearby precincts to be able to show some results while waiting for the election board to start reporting, which didn't happen until well after 8 p.m, and then shift to election board results.

Polling_Place_Vote_Here.jpgHappy Election Day! Polls open in Tulsa County and the City of Tulsa at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

Citizens of the City of Tulsa have two races on a non-partisan primary ballot: Mayor and City Auditor. There will be runoffs in November and possibly (but not likely) in August if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote today. Here's an explanation of Tulsa's new non-partisan election and runoff system.

Republican voters in Tulsa County District 3 (southern Broken Arrow, Bixby, Glenpool, southern Jenks, central and southern Tulsa) have a first-past-the-post special primary to fill the unexpired term of retiring commissioner Fred Perry. The candidate with the most votes, whether or not a majority, will advance to an August general election against Democrat John Bomar, who was unopposed for his party's nomination.

My endorsements -- click to read why:

A few resources as you go to vote:

City of Tulsa election results (including portions of the city in surrounding counties) and Tulsa County election results will be posted to the State Election Board website. But be aware that the county election boards will not process and transmit the tallies from individual precincts to the State Election Board computers until all absentee ballots (both in-person and by mail) are counted and posted. This was the cause for a significant delay last November; it shouldn't be as bad in a lower-turnout election. At least one TV station, KOTV Channel 6, will be sending poll runners to retrieve tallies directly from the results posted on every polling place door. I'll update this if I hear that other stations are also sending runners.

If you run into any difficulty voting or spot any irregularity, contact the your county election board. The phone number for the Tulsa County Election Board is 918-596-5780.

No election day would be complete without a theme song. Take it away, Leon!

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys perform "Election Day" by Cindy Walker in the movie Wyoming Hurricane, starring Russell Hayden. Leon McAuliffe on vocals; Cotton Thompson, Bob Wills, and Jesse Ashlock on fiddle, Junior Barnard on guitar, Luke Wills on bass.

Posted 12:00 a.m. Tuesday, June 11, 2013. Postdated to remain at the top of the blog through poll closing time.

Press release from Gun Owners of America from yesterday:

GOA Throws Support for Christiansen in Race for Tulsa Mayor

Gun Owners of America has endorsed Bill Christiansen, a businessman and former Marine, for Tulsa mayor in the primary election on Tuesday, June 11.

Christiansen is challenging the current mayor of Tulsa, who has broken the law in posting "no gun" signs in city parks. State law preempts localities from passing stricter gun control laws, and denying permit holders from carrying in city parks is a clear violation of Oklahoma law.

When the state group OK2A notified Mayor Dewey Bartlett's office about this conflict with the state law, gun owners were told that the mayor's staff would be lobbying for a repeal of the state preemption law.

"So instead of complying with the law," says OK2A, "they will continue to break it while trying to make the law comply with their illegal actions."

UPDATE: GOA found out today (the day before the election) that the city of Tulsa has begun to tape over the "no gun" signs. The head of OK2A suspects that it took a combination of forces to make the Mayor cry "uncle" -- namely, the fact that there is an impending election (tomorrow) and that OK2A was threatening to sue the city.

Despite this late-breaking information, GOA agrees that it's time for a change in Tulsa -- and Bill Christiansen is the change that is needed.

As stated by OK2A: "Tulsa has a clear choice. Option one: Mayor Bartlett, who obviously has no respect for the law. Option two: Kathy Taylor, a proven progressive [and a former charter member of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's anti-gun group known as Mayors Against Illegal Guns]. Or, option three: Bill Christiansen."

If elected, Bill Christiansen has agreed that he will remove the anti-gun signs in Tulsa's parks (without the threat of a lawsuit to comply with state law) and will carefully select a police chief who is pro-Second Amendment.

Please visit Bill Christiansen's website at www.billfortulsa.com to see how you can help. And if you live in Tulsa, please make sure you vote for Christiansen on Tuesday, June 11.


Tim Macy Vice-Chairman Gun Owners of America

Paid for by Gun Owners of America, 8001 Forbes Place, Suite 102, Springfield, VA 22151. The Honorable H.L. "Bill" Richardson, Chairman. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

Another day, another mendacious attack mailer from Dewey Bartlett Jr. If I had known there were enough Tulsans who objected to rising city budgets, county tax initiatives, the City Hall move, the Great Plains Airlines bailout, and accepting Federal stimulus money to justify a mail piece targeting those concerns, I would have run -- I was on the right side of all those issues, after all.

Of course, the point of these mendacious mailers is not that a majority of Tulsans agree with me, but that some number of Tulsans who agree with me on these issues and disagree with how Bill Christiansen handled them are nevertheless supporting Christiansen for mayor. Bartlett Jr's only hope of surviving Tuesday's primary may be to discourage and dishearten enough of these Christiansen supporters to keep them at home, to peel off just enough of Christiansen's support to allow Bartlett Jr to finish second.

No one has to tell me that Bill Christiansen and I have disagreed and still disagree on many city issues. But nearly every issue that Bartlett Jr has used against Christiansen works against Bartlett Jr, too.

For example, Christiansen recused himself on the Great Plains Airlines bailout vote because he is a tenant of one of the parties involved in the matter (the Tulsa Airport Authority), but he couldn't have stopped it if he had wanted to do so. Councilors were told by attorneys that they had no discretion to reject the settlement; they were only being asked to certify the presence of enough money in the city's sinking fund to pay the bill.


Dewey Bartlett Jr, as a member of the Tulsa Airport Improvements Trust, voted for the illegal Great Plains Airlines settlement that Kathy Taylor orchestrated. Bartlett Jr praised the deal, saying, "It's something we need to do and I applaud the mayor and the Bank of Oklahoma for working out a deal." Click that link to watch the video of Bartlett Jr's vote and comments.


I wasn't happy when Christiansen went along with then-Mayor Taylor on the purchase of One Technology Center for the new City Hall or the use of a stadium trust and assessment district to finance a downtown ballpark. I spoke out against both of those decisions, but I don't recall Dewey Bartlett Jr raising any objections. In fact, Bartlett Jr implicitly supported both bad deals when he endorsed Kathy Taylor unreservedly for re-election and said he wouldn't "be concerned if people consider him [Bartlett Jr] an extension of Kathy Taylor's leadership."

Even after he was elected, Dewey Bartlett Jr defended the One Technology Center purchase, despite a golden opportunity to distance himself from the costly decision.

If Dewey Bartlett Jr knows that the same accusations he's hurling against his opponent also work against him, he's cynical and disingenuous. If Dewey Bartlett Jr doesn't know that, he's clueless.


So let's stipulate that the Big Three Candidates disagree with me and other grassroots Tulsans, of both parties, on many city issues that matter. There are several solid reasons for us, nevertheless, to choose Christiansen over Bartlett Jr and Taylor:

1. Bill Christiansen made his money by building a business.

Bill Christiansen didn't marry into wealth, and he didn't inherit wealth. He came out of the Marines with a dream, came to Tulsa, and started a business from scratch. 41 years later his business, Christiansen Aviation, is still going and growing.

In recent years, I've had a front-row seat to watch several friends build businesses from scratch. It's given me an appreciation of the complex thought, hard work, self-discipline, and persistence involved in taking a little bit of money and the diverse skills and temperaments of a collection of employees and turning it into a living, growing enterprise that provides stable employment for dozens of people. Those abilities are needed at City Hall.

2. Bill Christiansen stayed married.

It's impolitic to point this out, I know, in a day when even conservative radio talk show hosts (even Catholic ones) minimize the issue of divorce. (Which gives social liberals ammunition against our efforts to stop same-sex "marriage.") We all know of divorces where the blame is split evenly, and we know of other divorces where one spouse's abusive or irresponsible behavior bears most of the blame. It's reasonable for those of us who believe in traditional marriage, when we consider our election options, to examine whether a candidate's divorce points to a severe character flaw. It's reasonable to ask if there was bad judgment involved, and if it has been corrected.

But surely everyone can agree that it's an accomplishment for a couple to stay together for 43 years, as Bill Christiansen and his wife Veretta have done. It's a sign of self-control and self-sacrifice, devotion and determination, particularly in an age when so many think divorce is no big deal.

3. Bill Christiansen understands that leadership starts with being a servant.

See 1 and 2 above. You can't succeed in building a business if you see yourself as royalty and expect to be catered to. Your job as the CEO is to give your people what they need to do their magic every day for the benefit of your customers and to keep obstacles out of their way. You can't succeed in marriage unless you're willing to sacrifice your own interests for the sake of your wife and kids. Christiansen has made "servant leadership" a core theme of his campaign. Christiansen sees the mayor's job not as being a "city boss," trying to push citizens to a destination of his choosing, but rather facilitating the work of city employees in their service to the public and facilitating Tulsa citizens as they seek to live their lives and pursue their own dreams.

4. Bill Christiansen has been moving toward a better, grassroots vision for city government.

When Christiansen was first elected, it was with the Tulsa Metro Chamber's support, and he tended to follow their lead. You'll find plenty of complaints on this website about Christiansen during his first few terms on the council. You can read how I wrested with his record when I decided to endorse Christiansen for re-election in 2009 against a challenge from Phil Lakin:

He has improved in recent years. He worked with former Street Commissioner Jim Hewgley III to try to develop a maintenance-heavy street repair package -- the Baby Bear plan. I had my doubts about whether he would remain opposed to the South Tulsa bridge, since some who backed his start in politics supported it (notably former Tulsa City Councilor, now Bixby resident, John Benjamin), Christiansen has been steadfast on the issue.

Christiansen's work on the bridge issue seems to have made him more sympathetic to concerns of homeowners regarding new development. He put together a Land Use Education and Communication task force. The task force recommendations are aimed at making the rules understandable and providing better web access to information on new development to help public awareness. There are some great ideas here, but as they would arm citizens with more timely information, I am sure that some old-guard development industry types are unhappy about it. I've heard speculation that this task force is one of the reasons that the establishment has abandoned Christiansen and is instead backing Phil Lakin....

In that 2009 piece, I omitted to mention another important issue in Christiansen's evolution: He watched neighboring homeowners get the runaround over the Sonoma Grande apartments in southeast Tulsa, a development that exploited a zoning anomaly and built up the terrain so that the new apartment buildings towered over neighboring single-family backyards. That was another factor in prompting the Land Use Education and Communication task force. At last Wednesday's mayoral meet-and-greet, Christiansen talked about the influence of a tour with members of Preserve Midtown, where he learned about the direct physical harm that heedless infill development can do to neighboring properties.

In 2013, when Dewey Bartlett Jr was beating the drum for the Vision2 corporate welfare, pork barrel, and long-term debt county tax proposal, when Kathy Taylor was hiding like a coward from the issue, Bill Christiansen courageously expressed his unequivocal opposition to Vision2.

Bartlett Jr beats on Christiansen for agreeing to Kathy Taylor's plan to finance the purchase of the new City Hall by borrowing $67 million against revenue from rentals in the new buildings and sales of the old buildings, but Bartlett Jr tried to persuade taxpayers to waste $80 million in bonding costs and interest as part of Vision2. Bartlett Jr wanted us to start borrowing and spending right away, four years before we would have any revenue that could be used to pay back the bonds.

5. If elected, Bill Christiansen will owe nothing to the Midtown Money Belt establishment.

My conclusion in 2009 remains valid:

And that abandonment by the establishment is the main reason why, if I lived in District 8, I would vote for Bill Christiansen. It takes some people longer than others to learn the lesson, but once you've been burned by the local oligarchy, it's a lesson you don't forget.

Many of the same Money Belt types who put Christiansen in office in 2002 put a lot of money into trying to remove him in 2009. The contribution records for the mayoral candidates show that they're backing Taylor and Bartlett and shunning Christiansen.

For example, Oklahoma's wealthiest man, Obama bundler George Kaiser together with his wife Myra Block gave $3,500 each to Dewey Bartlett Jr and Kathy Taylor this year -- nothing to Christiansen. In the 2009 council race, Kaiser gave $2,500 to Christiansen's opponent, Phil Lakin; BOK Financial Corp PAC gave $2,000; and there were many other four-digit contributions from individuals affiliated with BOK, George Kaiser Family Foundation, and other Kaiser-affiliated entities and businesses. Bill Lobeck (Mr. Kathy Taylor) gave $2,500 to purge Christiansen from the Council.

If Christiansen wins, he will owe nothing to the Money Belt elite, who put their own recreational interests ahead of the basic needs of Tulsa's citizens. He will win in spite of them. He will owe his election to grassroots Tulsans from the four corners of the city. That would be a welcome change.

One more thing: People who haven't been paying close attention assign blame to Christiansen and his fellow councilors for the disputes between the nine of them and Bartlett Jr. The reality is that the councilors did their best to work with Bartlett Jr in the beginning. They continued to work well with each other, despite their disparate backgrounds, interests, and political philosophies. Christiansen and his fellow councilors sought to fund essential services without increasing fees or taxes and without laying off police. Bartlett Jr wouldn't cooperate; it was as if he wanted an excuse to fight with the TPD and to fight with the council.

It amazes me how many of my fellow conservatives believe the Bartlett Jr line on his inability to get along with the City Council. If you don't believe the Tulsa Whirled editorial board when they tell you that abortion rights are good, that Planned Parenthood deserves public funding, and that our taxes aren't high enough, why should you believe them when they say that the City Council is a bunch of bickering buffoons? If nine very different people get along well with one another, and all of them have trouble getting along with one other person, who do you think is causing the problem?

He's not the perfect candidate by any means, but Bill Christiansen is by far the candidate for mayor who offers the best hope for Tulsa's future.

It was disheartening to read that someone I backed for City Council has bought Kathy Taylor's self-serving spin on the Great Plains Airlines bailout. The airport was never at risk. The collateral for the Great Plains Airlines loan was a small piece of the apron on the Air Force Plant No. 3 property (now used to manufacture buses and aircraft components). When the Great Plains deal was made, the citizens of Tulsa were told that the City was not at risk. Kathy Taylor chose to cough up our money -- an illegal payment, the State Supreme Court said -- rather than fight for us.

Kathy Taylor seems to be quite comfortable with obfuscation and deceptive spin. A recent example is her attempt to minimize her involvement with Michael Bloomberg's pro-gun-restriction coalition. In last week's forum, she made it sound as if she had only attended one meeting and that only as an observer. The reality: Kathy Taylor was one of the 15 charter members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), organized at NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Gracie Mansion in April 2006. Kathy Taylor signed the statement of principles, which included a promise to recruit other mayors to the cause. In October 2006, she attended a second summit in Chicago, posing with other mayors at a press conference, and in January 2007, she joined her MAIG colleagues in Washington to lobby against the Tiahrt Amendment, trying to remove an important protection for lawful gun owners.

Of course, the supreme example of Kathy Taylor's lawyerly and deceptive parsing of words happened early in her first campaign for mayor. It's the source for the Kathy Taylor photo and phrase that you've seen often on BatesLine during this campaign.


The picture and the phrase came from this news report from 2006. KJRH reporter Glenn McEntyre asked Kathy Taylor with official Broward County records showing that she had voted by absentee ballot in Florida in the November 7, 2000, election and official Tulsa County records showing that she voted in person at the polls in Tulsa the same day.

Taylor's attempt to deflect, her Clintonesque parsing of words, her defensiveness, all communicated to me that she was guilty and she knew it. Only after her campaign had had time to confirm that the direct physical evidence of her in-person vote no longer existed -- the voter books you sign at the polls are routinely destroyed after two years -- did she appear at a press conference to say, still rather equivocally, "I can tell you unequivocally that I never would have intentionally voted twice in two states."

Show this video to a grade-school child, and then ask the kid: Is she telling the truth, or is she lying?

MariaBarnes.jpgAfter Wednesday night's mayoral meet-and-greet at Harwelden, I spoke with former District 4 City Councilor Maria Barnes about the race. Like her colleague John Eagleton, Barnes served in city government with all three of the major candidates -- four years with Bill Christiansen on the City Council, two of those years (2006-2008) when Kathy Taylor was mayor and two (2009-2011) when Dewey Bartlett Jr was mayor.

I've known Maria for many years, going back to our involvement in the Midtown Coalition of Neighborhood Associations. Although we disagree on many national political issues, Maria and I share many concerns about the way Tulsa's City Hall treats its citizens and cares for its neighborhoods. I appreciate her frankness, and I was happy to hear her thoughts on the race and to pass them along to BatesLine readers.

Taylor "receptive, inclusive"

Barnes said that Taylor was always very receptive to her. Taylor put her on the steering committee for the new comprehensive plan "from day one," allowing Barnes to apply her years working on behalf of Tulsa's neighborhoods to the selection of the planning team and the ground rules for the process. Working with Taylor, Barnes "always felt included." Taylor "would call me at 11 o'clock at night and say she just got a call from the chief, there was a shooting in my district, just thought I'd want to know. I appreciated that."

Under Taylor, a small, rotating group of four councilors (less than a quorum) would hold a weekly meeting with the Mayor at 4 pm on Thursdays. Barnes said that Taylor would have an aide taking notes as councilors relayed concerns about issues in their districts and would follow through with answers. Taylor made sure the disparity study (dealing with minority-owned businesses and city contracting) requested by the Human Rights Commission was funded. Barnes noted that when she left (she was defeated for re-election in 2008), she heard that the relationship changed, but during the two years Taylor was there, "it was fun. I felt like we were getting things done."

Christiansen "always respectful, in tune with the issues"

Although Barnes and Christiansen are of different parties, Barnes said that it never mattered to their working relationship. "Bill was always respectful to me. He worked with me." She noticed in particular that during their last two years together on the Council, that he was "in tune with the issues," was quick to grasp the implications of a proposal, and to help his colleagues understand what was at stake.

They disagreed on many issues, including how the city should respond to HB 1804, the state law dealing with illegal immigration -- Barnes opposed it -- but despite their differences Barnes said that she and Christiansen remained on good terms. "Bill was always understanding; he was always great to work with."

Bartlett Jr: Dismissive from the start

Barnes's transition to the last of the three candidates was abrupt: "My two years with Dewey? How many times did we get sued, Michael?" she asked rhetorically.

Going from Taylor to Bartlett Jr was "like night and day."

Barnes pointed out that when Bartlett Jr came into office, the city's budget was already balanced (as indeed it must be, as required by state law), although they "needed to cut back some" to deal with declining revenues.

"Some of the ideas that we [councilors] had, John Eagleton had, Rick Westcott had, were good ideas but he [Bartlett Jr] didn't want to hear it." He was dismissive of the councilors
from the minute his administration started, Barnes said.

At Bartlett Jr's first meeting with the council his swearing-in, Barnes said that Bartlett Jr talked about getting rid of the police department. Barnes said that she, Bill Christiansen, Rick Westcott, and Chris Trail were in the meeting with Bartlett Jr, his chief of staff Terry Simonson and others, and Bartlett Jr told them that he "had already talked to [Tulsa County Sheriff] Stanley Glanz and asked him for a proposal for what it was going to cost for him and the city to work together" because of his intention to lay off police officers. Barnes objected, preferring the continuity of the Tulsa Police officers who were already working in her district to deputy sheriffs who wouldn't know the area.

Barnes said that police officers came to her, telling her that they were finding savings and money that could prevent police layoffs, but the Bartlett Jr administration wouldn't listen.

Barnes also said that Bartlett Jr told them, at another meeting, that he had talked to then-Congressman John Sullivan about routing the federal Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funds to the county. Bartlett Jr always seemed to want county officials to be in charge over city government, she said.

During her overlap with Bartlett Jr, Barnes served one year as council vice chairman and one year as chairman. Often, she said, she would receive a phone call on Thursday afternoon: "'Madame Chairman, I was just told by staff' -- the flunky he sent down -- 'that if you move forward with this agenda item tonight there's a possibility you could be sued.'"

Leading up to Bartlett Jr's layoff of 124 police officers, Barnes and Trail suggested giving Tulsans a means for donating to cover the public safety funding gap. "They put a card in your water bill to get you to donate for fireworks, why not for public safety?" For their suggestion, they were ridiculed. Bartlett Jr's solution, Barnes said, was to raise fees, rather than finding a way to fund public safety within existing revenues.

Barnes countered the commonplace canard that the 2009-2011 council was always bickering. She pointed to the diversity on the council -- Republicans and Democrats -- "working together hand-in-hand, supporting each other, standing by each other. Even though there were issues we didn't agree on, we were civil. We understood." The problem was with Bartlett Jr. He withdrew from communicating with the council, stopped the 4 pm meetings, and always seemed to be picking a fight, according to Barnes.

"There are a lot of good things happening in Tulsa now, but it's not because of this mayor. It's not because Dewey gave these businesses his stamp of approval."

"We have got to do things differently. I'm not saying Kathy's bad or Bill's bad. We just can't do Dewey again."

The first thing to say about any poll in the Tulsa mayor's race is that it doesn't matter. It shouldn't affect how you think about your own vote. Because there is a runoff in November, you can vote for your favorite of the top three candidates without worrying that you'll inadvertently help your least-favorite candidate win. Read my earlier entry on the Tulsa non-partisan election and runoff process for an in-depth understanding of why this is.

SoonerPoll.com, the firm whose pre-Vision2 poll incorrectly showed both propositions winning, has published a poll showing Kathy Taylor and Dewey Bartlett in a near tie and Bill Christiansen trailing in advance of Tuesday's mayor of Tulsa primary. The "top-line" weighted numbers from SoonerPoll.com have Taylor at 36.4%, Bartlett at 34.6%, Christiansen at 20.1%, Branch at 0.1%, Kirkpatrick at 0.0%, and 8.7% don't know/refused. The percentages add up to 99.9%, but the raw numbers for their sample of 400 add up to 401.

Meanwhile, the Bill Christiansen campaign has posted the results of their internal poll, which shows Taylor at 34%, Christiansen at 31%, Bartlett at 24%, and 11% undecided. The sample size was 468, and a voter was called only if they are high-propensity voters (4 or 5 times out of the last five elections).

Back before the Vision2 vote, I published a critique of SoonerPoll.com's methodology, particularly the age of the poll, their use of random-digit dialing and their weighting of subsamples.

As with Vision2, some of the SoonerPoll.com sample is over a week old and predates several debates and forums. They are weighting even more subsamples in this poll than they did for Vision2.

This poll has additional problems. (To their credit, SoonerPoll.com has published the questions they asked.)

First, note how they screen for likely voters. They simply ask:

On June 11, Tulsa residents will vote in a nonpartisan primary election for Tulsa mayor. Do you plan to vote in this election?

Is the person on the other end of the phone even registered to vote? Does he know where to vote? Was she even aware that there was an election before she picked up the phone? Younger voters tend to overestimate their likelihood of voting; older voters tend to underestimate. I suspect that their sample weighting by age is intended to correct for that.

The second problem: In the "ballot test" question, they don't simply read the names as they will appear on the ballot. They add a description for each candidate.

If the election were held today and you were standing in the voting booth right now and had to make a choice, for whom would you vote? [READ & ROTATE] 1. Dewey Bartlett, Jr., the current mayor 2. Jerry Branch, a pipefitter/welder 3. Bill Christiansen, former city councilor 4. Lawrence Kirkpatrick, a church volunteer 5. Kathy Taylor, the former mayor 6. DK/Refused [DNR] [SKIP Q5]

In the voting booth, it's going to be up to the voter to remember which candidate is which. Here's 2013 City of Tulsa sample ballot. Just names, no party affiliation, no description. I think voters would be well-served if candidates could add a few words of description or abbreviations for endorsing organizations, but right now that's not allowed.

(Oddly, the ballot header says "INDEPENDENT MUNICIPAL OFFICERS." Independent of whom? Shouldn't it simply say NON-PARTISAN, as it does for judicial and school offices?)

The methodology summary says, "Results were weighted by gender, age and party." The poll has six different age brackets, two sexes (sex is a biological term, gender is a grammatical term), and three party affiliations. That implies 6 x 2 x 3 = 36 subsamples. The best case is that each subsample would have 11 respondents, each with a margin of error of 29.55%.

And this is puzzling: They say the results were weighted, and yet magically every number or responses is a whole number. If you're weighting a result, you're multiplying the actual number of responses, which would be a whole number, by some weighting factor, which probably won't be, you're more likely than not to get a fractional number. My suspicion is that the percentages accurately represent (to one decimal place) the weighted result, which was then multiplied by 400 and rounded to get the weighted number of responses. On several questions, the number of responses adds up to 401, due no doubt to cumulative rounding errors.

Let me repeat what I said in reaction to SoonerPoll.com's Vision2 poll:

It may be that all these flaws cancel each other out, and I don't mean to cast blame on SoonerPoll.com, which is no doubt doing its best to gauge public sentiment in an increasingly difficult environment. We'll find out on Tuesday.

Why does it matter? Poll results can be used to create a bandwagon effect, particularly when an issue isn't strongly partisan. Without any strong sense of what to do, some voters will go along with whichever side they see in the majority.

The antidote to a poll-driven bandwagon is to create your own bandwagon -- put signs in your yard, post to Facebook and Twitter, email and phone your friends, and let them know which candidates you're supporting.

Realtor Darryl Baskin has interviewed all four Republican candidates for Tulsa County Commissioner District 3, and you can see the interviews on his TulsaLiveEvents.com LiveStream channel.

Baskin asked insightful questions of each of the candidates and elicited thoughtful responses. I was particularly impressed with the answers from John Wright, which you can see below. He understands some of the details of county government that may not make for exciting radio commercials but make the difference between honest, open government that serves the public interest and cozy insider dealing that favors special interests.

Some highlights:

On revenue bond funding for capital improvements (starting at 10:30): Wright points out that pay-as-you-go, spending the tax revenue only as it comes in, as Oklahoma City did for MAPS, allows all revenues to go toward projects, while Tulsa County's approach of borrowing against future tax revenues diverts funds from projects to pay interest. If Tulsa County issues bonds in the future, Wright says that when the county issues revenue bonds there should be a request for proposals and competitive bidding for the sake of transparency, to avoid any appearance that someone has a special deal for the placement of the bonds.

On county government reform (starting at 12:30): Wright argues for a separate First Deputy for each County Commissioner, in order to comply with the spirit as well as the letter of the Open Meetings Act. Because there are only three commissioners, any two comprise a quorum, and they cannot legally discuss county business except in properly called public meeting. At the moment, two commissioners share a deputy. Wright says that makes it possible for a majority of the commission to "have a meeting of the minds" and come to agreement on an issue outside of an open meeting. "The Open Meeting law is designed to ensure that public business is conducted in a public forum."

Wright also says there should be more transparency with regards to successful bids on county contracts. Right now, you have to go to the County Courthouse in person to get the information, which you should be able to get over the internet.

Another of Wright's reform aims is to have separate votes on distinct issues, rather than grouping large numbers of issues together and passing them with a single vote. Separate votes provide accountability -- you can find out how your commissioner voted on each issue.

In his final comments (starting about 16:30), Wright mentioned that Tulsa County is in the top third of the country in ad valorem (property) tax burden and has the highest ad valorem burden in Oklahoma. Ad valorem doesn't only affect real estate -- businesses pay ad valorem tax on their equipment. He noted that the County Commissioners can put issues on the ballot to allow voters to change the level of tax for entities with fixed millages, possibly reducing the tax burden.

MORE: This map illustrates where the two ongoing current county commissioners live (red district numbers 1 and 2) and where the four Republican candidates for District 3 live (green first and last initials). If either Ron Peters or Brandon Perkins wins, all three County Commissioners will reside in the City of Tulsa; no other municipalities will be represented. If Ron Peters is elected, all three county commissioners will live within a three-mile radius of Utica Square. If Brandon Perkins is elected, all three county commissioners will live within a four-mile radius of Brookside. Click the picture to see a larger version of the map.


Which_Way_Tulsa_Sign.PNGThere's a good deal of confusion about the City of Tulsa election process. Tulsans have amended the election dates and terms of office about a dozen times in the last seven years. In just a few years we've gone from partisan elections in February and March of even-numbered years to September and November of odd-numbered years, to staggered council terms, to non-partisan elections in June and November of even-numbered years except for the mayor and city auditor, which are still in odd-numbered years.

At least for now: Starting next year, everyone will be elected in the fall of even-numbered years, as long as we don't have yet another charter amendment. (Here's a direct link to the Elections section of the Tulsa City Charter; you'll see all the superseded provisions in italics.)

There are two radically new features of the Tulsa election process. Everyone by now is aware that this is a non-partisan election, with all the candidates for Mayor of Tulsa and Tulsa City Auditor on the same ballot in Tuesday's primary, regardless of party affiliation -- even though we all know that Kathy Taylor is a Democrat and Bill Christiansen and Dewey Bartlett Jr are Republicans, their party affiliations won't be listed on the ballot.

Now this isn't entirely unfamiliar. We've had special elections in which candidates of all parties competed on the same ballot -- the 1992 special election to replace Mayor Rodger Randle, the 2005 special election to replace City Councilor Sam Roop are two examples. What we didn't have was a runoff, and a candidate could win with a tiny plurality as Bill Martinson did in 2005 with only 27% of the vote. In the UK they call that system "first-past-the-post."

In previous election years, we had a partisan primary in normal elections, with the top vote-getter in each party advancing to the general election, regardless of the percentage of the winner. That's how Bill LaFortune won renomination in 2006 -- he fell short of 50%, but the rest of the votes were split among three candidates, and there was no runoff. If there happened to be a strong independent candidate, you also could have a general election winner with a minority of the votes cast.

Which leads us to the other new feature: A runoff, possibly two runoffs. Here are the possible scenarios after all the votes are counted this coming Tuesday, June 11, 2013:

A. One candidate has more votes than all the other candidates combined (i.e., a majority, 50%+1 vote): That candidate has been elected, and we're done. It looks like Kathy Taylor is spending a lot of money to try to make this happen, which is why you see her ads on nearl every website. (I found I saw far fewer of them after I told Google Maps that my location was the bus station in Timbuktu.)

B. No candidate has a majority, but the top two candidates combined have a majority, i.e. more votes than all the other candidates combined. If this happens, the top two candidates will face off in a runoff. This year that will be on the second Tuesday in November. This is the likeliest scenario when there are three candidates running strong campaigns, as we have this year.

C. No candidate has a majority, and the top two candidates together don't have a majority. In this case, add candidates in order of finish until their combined total is a majority. This group of candidates -- the minimum number of candidates whose total vote is a majority -- would compete in a runoff primary in August. At the runoff primary, there are two possible outcomes -- one candidate gets a majority and is elected, or no candidate gets a majority and the top two are on the ballot in November. This scenario would be likelier to happen if there were four or more evenly-matched candidates.

The bottom line for the 2013 Tulsa elections: Because of the runoff system, you can vote for your favorite candidate in Tuesday's primary without worrying that you'll "split the vote" and accidentally help your least favorite candidate win.

There are qualifications that could be added to that statement, but it's certainly true provided that your favorite mayoral candidate this year is one of the three running a competitive race. (If your favorite is one of the two also-rans, it's possible that your second-favorite candidate would be eliminated in the first round and your choice in the finals will be between two candidates you can't stand.)

If your only concern is to keep a candidate from winning outright on Tuesday, all you need to do is show up and vote for any other candidate. A vote for anyone else is a vote to deny a majority to the candidate you detest.

In the auditor's race, there are only three candidates this year, so the above statement is true without qualification.

Please note that this bottom line doesn't apply to the special County Commission race to fill an unexpired term, which has a first-past-the-post Republican primary on Tuesday and a special general election in August and no runoff. While city elections are governed by the city charter and ordinances, county elections are governed by state statutes.

This isn't instant runoff voting, but the new city system does reduce the likelihood of someone despised by a majority of voters could win election.

Graphic above repurposed from the cover of a PLANiTULSA survey.

CLARIFICATION: The current city auditor won a term subsequent to his appointment; he did not draw an opponent after filing for a full term in 2011. My opinion that he is not sufficiently independent of the mayor who appointed him stands.

A scenario for your consideration:

A politician, fighting a tough re-election campaign, mails out a survey at taxpayers' expense a few weeks before his name is on the ballot. The cover letter, from the politician, touts the politician's accomplishments in office. Even though the mailer doesn't explicitly call for the politician's re-election, it certainly seems timed for that purpose. At the least, it's an example of the advantages of incumbency, the incumbent's ability to use his power to direct city spending in ways that boost his re-election chances. At worst, it's an unethical abuse of the incumbent's power: Some nominal public benefit used to justify the misuse of the incumbent's power for his personal political benefit. Surely there's sufficient cause for a citizen to complain to ethics authorities, even if the politician ultimately is let off the hook.

A whistleblower steps forward and files a complaint. Rather than take the complaint seriously, the investigator dismisses the complaint and then turns his microscope on the whistleblower. The whistleblower is accused of abusing public funds for a political purpose.

Such a topsy-turvy scenario belongs to a Lewis Carroll story. Attacking the whistleblower is the sort of thing a corrupt president might do to punish his political enemies.

Dewey Bartlett JuniorIt's happening right here in Tulsa: Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr's appointed City Auditor, Clift Richards, has used Steven Roemerman's complaint about the pro-Bartlett-Jr tilt of a city-funded survey as a basis for investigating and denouncing the citizen who complained.

When an ethics complaint is lodged against the Mayor, the City Auditor is responsible to investigate. Ordinarily, the City Auditor handles such complaints from a position of independence, but the current City Auditor is not independently elected but was appointed by Bartlett Jr to fill an unexpired term.

Here is the auditor's report on the ethics charge against Dewey Bartlett Jr.

I thought it was odd when I heard from Roemerman that he had been called in for questioning about his complaint. Unless the complainant has some personal knowledge needed to establish the facts of the case, there's no reason to interrogate him. And in this case, the facts -- the existence of the survey, the letter, and its wording -- were all well-established. In light of Auditor Richards's report, it appears that the reason for interrogating Roemerman was not to get to the bottom of the Mayor's conduct but to question the whistleblower's motives and to accuse him of unethical behavior.

Steven+Roemerman-240px.jpgHow, you may ask, can an ordinary citizen be accused of violating the city's ethics ordinance? Roemerman is a member of the city's Sales Tax Overview Committee, so he is a subject of the ordinance. Even so, it's a ridiculous charge. Roemerman didn't mention his position on STOC in his complaint. His position gave him no special standing in filing a complaint. He has no power to direct the expenditure of public funds. He simply exercised the same opportunity that any citizen has to file a complaint. Roemerman told the Tulsa World that he even paid for his own parking when he went to City Hall to file the complaint even though, as a STOC member, he can park at City Hall for free.

On the other hand, Bartlett Jr certainly did have the final say on the survey cover letter that went out to 1,800 Tulsa homes. He may have even been the one that authorized the survey, using money under his discretionary control as mayor.

There's a very odd statement in Bartlett Jr's response to Roemerman's complaint:

To the extent the ETC's preparation of the Community Survey was delayed, it is certainly never been claimed or suggested that I had any responsibility for the timing of the survey's release.

Why not simply say, "I had no responsibility for the timing of the survey's release," unless you can't say it because it's not true?

Even if Bartlett Jr didn't control the timing of the release of the survey, he surely knew when it was going out, and to my mind, it looks like he decided to piggyback a pro-re-election message onto the survey:

When I was first elected in 2009, one of my top priorities as Mayor was to reach out across Tulsa with the first citizen's survey in order to help guide policies for all Tulsans. With the data from that survey and the KPMG recommendations my administration worked with the community to build public policy based on efficiency and citizens input.

There's a lot of Obama-style first-person horn-blowing in that paragraph. It also reflects Bartlett Jr's narcissistic tendency, on display in his infamous Reason interview, to act as if he and his minions are the sum total of city government -- city workers and city councilors don't matter.

And this was not the first survey of Tulsa citizens. As one example, an in-depth citizens' survey was conducted in the first stage of the development of PLANiTULSA.

Likewise, the last sentence: "Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Mayor...." Dewey, it's not all about you.

There has been a pattern, during Bartlett Jr's administration: Dewey's detractors find themselves the target of lawsuits or targeted in some other way. Targeting a citizen for submitting a valid concern looks like more of the same.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE 2013/06/08: As I've examined news releases and articles from the initial Mayors Against Illegal Guns summit, the picture is emerging that Kathy Taylor was even farther from being a mere passive attendee in Michael Bloomberg's group than I thought. I've added some links and photos below. Taylor was part of a small core group of 15 mayors -- 13 of them Democrats -- who signed on to a common statement of principles, which included the pledge to recruit other mayors to join. I think it's fair to say that Kathy Taylor was a charter member of Michael Bloomberg's anti-gun-rights coalition.

Taylor's backtracking is reminiscent of her sudden disappearance from the advisory board of Tulsans for Better Government, the group that came into existence to push for at-large seats on the city council.

Kathy_Taylor-That.Is.Crazy.pngKathy Taylor's active involvement as Tulsa mayor in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's group Mayors Against Illegal Guns was a topic in last night's KRMG/Fox23 Tulsa mayoral forum. During the rebuttal opportunity at the end of the forum, Taylor says she attended one conference with many other mayors and didn't inhale. (I may have made up those last three words.)

The record shows that Kathy Taylor attended the organizational meeting of Mayors Against Illegal Guns at New York City's Gracie Mansion on April 25, 2006 -- she was one of only 15 mayors present. (Here's a link to the Tulsa World's story on Taylor's presence at the National Summit on Illegal Guns, where she said she received "confirmation that we are on the right track." And here's a link to the official webpage for the April 2006 launch of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.)


Tulsa mayor Kathy Taylor at the National Summit on Illegal Guns, with Mayors Frank Melton of Jackson, MS, Philip Amicone of Yonkers, NY, and Douglas Palmer of Trenton, NJ. Image from Mayors Against Illegal Guns website. Hat tip to Matthew Vermillion (@mvermi on Twitter).

Kathy Taylor signed a six-point statement of principles which included a call to keep "lethal, military-style weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines off our streets." Of course, most guns are designed to be lethal (excluding starters' pistols, cap guns, and the like), and Taylor signed on to language epitomizing the left-wing swoon over "assault weapons," where scary appearance matters more than any distinction in performance.

Kathy Taylor was with the group again six months later in Chicago on October 25, 2006, at a midwestern summit of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, appearing at a press conference with Bloomberg and other mayors at Chicago Police headquarters. Then on January 24, 2007, Kathy Taylor was in Washington with other members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns urging the repeal of the Tiahrt Amendment, a provision of Federal law that protects the privacy of lawful gun owners.

Mayor Kathy Taylor on Wednesday urged an end to federal restrictions on information that could help local police crack down on crimes committed with illegal guns....

In Washington to attend the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Taylor joined other members of a coalition known as Mayors Against Illegal Guns to bring attention to the illegal gun trade and seek help from the federal government.

The coalition specifically targeted legislation by Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., that it believes keeps the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other agencies from sharing trace data that could help local police combat illegal guns.

Seems like she inhaled pretty deeply.

Here are snapshots from the web capturing Kathy Taylor's involvement in the Mayors Against Illegal Guns over time:

Kathy Taylor's name and title as Mayor of Tulsa appear on this Mayors Against Illegal Guns ad calling for the repeal the Tiahrt Amendment, dated June 1, 2007.

Kathy Taylor's name and title as Mayor of Tulsa appear on this Mayors Against Illegal Guns letter to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid dated July 1, 2009. The letter is titled "Re: 400 Mayors Call on Congress to Support H.R.2324/S.843 and Close the Gun Show Loophole"

News9 report identifies Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor as a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns in a January 2, 2009, story about the group's report, "The Movement of Illegal Guns in America: The Link between Gun Laws and Interstate Trafficking."

This capture of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Wikipedia page from September 23, 2009, says that Oklahoma is unrepresented, that Taylor is leaving the mayor's office, and it notes that as of September 2009, her name is no longer on the coalition's roster. Taylor is not listed among mayors who resigned because they were misled about the purposes of the coalition.

Taylor's name, title, and photo appear on the MAIG website as late as November 17, 2007. It was not on the December 18, 2007, capture of the file. Kathy Taylor's name and city appear on the MAIG map as late as July 23, 2009.

This NRA-ILA fact sheet says that Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor was a member of Mayor's Against Illegal Guns as of August 20, 2009. Another NRA-ILA fact sheet explains what MAIG is all about.

This NRA-ILA report says that as of November 17, 2009, Taylor had resigned from MAIG. That was also about the time of the election to replace her, so it's not clear if the resignation was a parting of the ways with the organization or just the result of her leaving office.

RELATED: Bartlett Jr said that he had the unqualified endorsement of the NRA. In his 2009 mayoral race, Bartlett Jr received a "?" rating from the NRA Political Victory Fund for his failure to complete the questionnaire. (Rivals Chris Medlock and Tom Adelson both received "A"s.) On his LinkedIn profile Daniel Patten, Bartlett Jr's campaign manager, says that he served as a campaign field representative for the NRA-ILA from April 2012 to November 2012. Whether a budding young campaign manager might call in a favor from friends at his old job in an attempt to rescue his first candidate campaign from an early demise... I leave that as an exercise for the reader.

There are four candidates in Tuesday's Republican primary for Tulsa County Commission District 3, to fill the unexpired term of Fred Perry, who is resigning with a year and a half to go.

This is the ideal situation for Instant Runoff Voting (ranking your candidates in order of preference), but in this case, because of a quirk in state law, we don't even have a regular two-man runoff primary. (You may recall that Perry was first elected in 2006 thanks to a runoff, in which he defeated Bill Christiansen.) This race is first-past-the-post, and the candidate with the most votes wins the nomination, even if his total is far less than a majority.

Ordinarily, in this kind of election scenario I would be encouraging you to vote tactically, to consider not simply which candidate is your top choice, but which acceptable candidate is in a position to finish first.

But this time, even if I wanted to recommend a tactical vote, I couldn't. My crystal ball is too murky. There are no poll numbers to consult. The biggest spender in the race may be so far ahead that it doesn't matter. Then again, there may be several candidates neck-and-neck to finish first. So let's just vote for the right choice.

I urge District 3 Republicans to vote for former State Rep. John Wright, the best qualified candidate in the race, the candidate who best understands how county government works, the candidate with the core principles and the tenacity to protect taxpayer interests against the predations of special interests.


During his 12-year service in the legislature, Wright was a consistent vote for conservative policies across the board. His voting record earned him a lifetime score of 91% on the Oklahoma Constitution Conservative Index. He was a leader in the House, serving as chairman of the Republican caucus and chairman of the House Administrative Rules and Agency Oversight Committee. Wright has been endorsed by many of his former legislative colleagues, including State Sen. Gary Stanislawski, who says that John Wright "is a man of integrity who researches the facts to make informed decisions."

Since leaving the House, Wright, a Realtor, has served in the Tulsa County Assessor's office. In that capacity, he has attended dozens of County Commission and county board meetings, adding direct knowledge of county operations to his work on county government reform at the State Capitol.

This past Tuesday evening, I attended the League of Women Voters forum and heard from all five County Commission candidates. It confirmed my opinion that Wright is the only candidate thoroughly prepared to serve. He was able to answer every question knowledgeably, with specifics, without hedging.

Regarding the county budget, Wright says that all county revenues, whether from property tax, sales tax, grants, or previous year surpluses, should be budgeted up-front, not just accounted for after the money has already been spent, and he pointed to an Attorney General opinion backing up that view of state law. Sadly, this common-sense view is not the majority view at the Tulsa County Courthouse.

John Wright is soft-spoken, but you should never mistake his soft-spokenness for a lack of spine.

In 2003, Wright was the lone vote in either chamber against HB 1676, which would have removed requirements for counties to follow generally accepted accounting principle (GAAP). Wright's courage to stand alone against the bill caught then-Gov. Henry's attention, and Wright was able to persuade Gov. Henry to veto it.

When asked about what should happen when the Vision 2025 tax expires, Wright said that a lower tax rate generates a higher level of economic activity and results in a higher, more secure revenue stream. Higher sales taxes encourage consumers to defer purchases or divert them elsewhere.

Wright believes that the county's role in economic development is to focus on basic public safety and infrastructure. "The core of economic development is public safety." Funneling tax dollars to private companies (as Vision2 would have done) leads to elections that go to the highest bidder, the sort of thing that happens in Third World dictatorships.

Wright wants to see the county excise board do its job of scrutinizing the budgets submitted to it rather than acting as a rubber stamp. He worked with the legislature to require county board of equalization members (who also serve as the excise board) to take training in their powers and responsibilities under state law.

Ron Peters, another former State Rep., made sure we all knew he was the Tulsa Regional Chamber's endorsed candidate in the race. Peters wants another "Vision"-type tax, controlled by the county, although he wants to take some time to put the next package together and try to get everyone on board. Early in the campaign, I detailed Ron Peters's decidedly un-conservative legislative record on gambling and local control of zoning and his worrisome roster of supporters, led by Bob Dick, former Tulsa County Commissioner.

Brandon Perkins lost me with his answer to a question about the structure of a tax vote to replace Vision 2025 when it expires: "Let the voters decide." That's a cop-out. The voters can only vote yes or no on whatever plan the commissioners send their way. It's up to the commissioners to filter proposals and only let solid ideas go to the voters. Perkins's radio ads suggest that he wants an expansive role for county government, hinting at massive public infrastructure projects and a "legacy." What we need, rather, is a modest county government focused on meeting its statutory responsibilities.

Don Crall was the most confident speaker of the candidates at the LWV forum and was the first to step out from behind the podium. Crall teaches business classes at Southern Nazarene University. On a replacement for the Vision 2025 sales tax, he made a good point -- the cities may claim it before the county gets around to renewing it. Crall is the only candidate who lives in Tulsa County's ever shrinking unincorporated territory and so understands the special role county government plays in roads and law enforcement where city jurisdiction doesn't apply. If Wright weren't in the race, Crall would be my pick.

At the same time, however, there are some worrisome things about Crall. In his interview with Tulsa Beacon publisher Charlie Biggs, Crall characterized the County Commissioner's job as his ideal role in government because it's an administrative post, not legislative, which Crall doesn't find appealing. In fact, there is a strong legislative and policy-making aspect to the county commission, shaping policy with the other two commissioners, picking loan recipients as a member of the Tulsa County Industrial Authority, setting policy for Expo Square as a member of the fair board, and serving with the other elected officials on the budget board. You're making policy choices, not simply administering someone else's policy choices.

While Crall talks a good game on taxes and limited government, it bothers me that he didn't stick his neck out in public opposition to the disastrous Vision2 tax plan. Did he pull his punches on the issue because of his desire to run for County Commissioner? And the current Tulsa County Commission appointed Crall to the Vision 2025 Sales Tax Overview Committee, which he serves as chairman. Does that mean that they believed Crall was tame enough not to stir up any trouble or ask any probing questions? (UPDATE 2013/06/11: Crall reached out with an gracious email on June 7, which has set my mind at ease somewhat on these questions. Unfortunately, it got caught by the spam trapper and I am only now (midday on Election Day) seeing it.)

There's the distinct possibility that the same voters who defeated Vision2 (Prop. 1: 45.9% to 54.1%; Prop. 2: 47.7% to 52.3%) will split their votes so many ways that they'll guarantee the election of a commissioner like Peters who will actively push for Vision2.1. Ronda Vuillemont-Smith, who led the successful campaign to defeat Vision2, saw that danger and stepped aside just after the filing period, pulling her name off of the ballot in deference to John Wright. Given the lack of a runoff, it would have been lovely if Crall and Wright had agreed to make their case to a panel of conservative leaders and then unite behind the candidate that the group thought best suited to the job.

But it's too late for that and the candidates have too much invested to pull out now. So the best the voters can do is make the right choice and live with the results. And the right choice for Tulsa County Commissioner is John Wright.

auditor_lewis_yardsign.PNGOvershadowed by expensive campaigns for Tulsa mayor and county commissioner, the other race on next Tuesday's ballot is for the crucial office of Tulsa City Auditor.

The city auditor was envisioned by the drafters of Tulsa's 1989 city charter as a counter-balance to the power concentrated in the mayor's office. The auditor has full organizational independence to build a team of auditors and to pursue investigations into the operations and spending of city departments, authorities, boards, and commissions.

But all that power does no good if the auditor refuses to use it or can't manage his own team effectively. While good things can be said about each of three men who have served as auditor under the '89 charter, it can't be said that any of them made full use of the job's authority to save the taxpayers money. Phil Wood, who served for over 20 years, was a pioneer in putting city government information on the web, using his own personal website until the city's official web presence caught up. Wood assembled a well-regarded team of internal auditors. But Wood was reluctant to call public attention to his team's findings for fear of seeming too political.

Preston Doerflinger defeated Wood in 2009 with a promise to do better, and he was slated to head the effort to implement the KPMG efficiency study, but he only stuck around for two years before being called up to serve as State Finance Director.

The current auditor, Clift Richards, was appointed by Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr in 2011 to fill Doerflinger's unexpired term. A Wednesday, June 5, 2013, story in the Tulsa World paints a statistical picture of poor performance under Clift Richards's leadership. The number of improvement recommendations produced by the auditor's office have plummeted from 43 in fiscal year 2008-2009, Wood's last full year in office, to 7 in FY 2011-2022. Under Richards, the office's budget is 25% higher than the average for offices of 6 to 10 auditors, and only 49% of the auditors time is spent on actual audits, compared to a national average of 72%.

Richards's analysis of his department's shortcomings doesn't exactly inspire confidence in his leadership:

He attributed productivity shortfalls mainly to high employee turnover, saying the office often serves as a stepping-stone for better-paying private auditing jobs. He said that forces the office to spend more time training workers while losing progress on audits being conducted by outgoing employees.

An effective city auditor has to be able to counter the lure of the private sector with a sense of mission and cameraderie. If salary is a stumbling block, he has to be willing to go to the City Council and argue for the budget to build and keep a good team together -- not as much money as the private sector, but enough to keep good people on board. Wood managed that much; Richards, by his own testimony, has not.

Meanwhile down the turnpike, State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones and his team have cleared a massive backlog of required audits and have uncovered misdeeds and shoddy financial practices at every level of state, county, and municipal government. Jones is what Oklahoma has always needed in our State Auditor -- he's persistent, he's efficient, he takes the initiative to protect the taxpayers, and he's unafraid to step on toes, even if those toes belong to a member of the same party.

One of the Jones team's blockbuster audits uncovered extravagant and questionable spending at the Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) which serves Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and a number of other municipalities. A leading member of the EMSA audit team is now seeking to bring that same spirit to the Tulsa City Auditor's office.

Josh Lewis, CPA, graduated summa cum laude in accounting from the College of the Ozarks, worked five years in private sector accounting, and for the last two years has worked as the most senior member of the State Auditor's Tulsa office. According to his campaign bio, Lewis has audited "county governments, federal grants, emergency medical services, and perform[ed] multiple investigative/fraud engagements."

Josh Lewis points out that he is the only candidate without close ties to a mayoral candidate. Clift Richards was appointed by Bartlett; Kathy Taylor appointed Cathy Criswell as Chief Risk Officer in the Mayor's Office and has given $1,000 to Criswell's campaign. We need a City Auditor who is not beholden to the mayor or anyone else whose work his team will be scrutinizing.

Tulsa taxpayers need an energetic, assertive team leader to protect our interests at City Hall. His record, his experience, and his vision for the role indicate that Josh Lewis is the best choice to be Tulsa's City Auditor.

MORE: The State Auditor's audit of EMSA and a News on 6 story about the EMSA audit. From the report:

During the period examined, Mr. Williamson was reimbursed for a number of expenditures that the general public would consider unwarranted and extravagant such as spa goods and services, an American Airlines Admirals' Club membership, and multiple lifetime subscriptions to Sirius Satellite Radio. However, these expenditures are merely indicative of more serious Board inadequacies that allow abusive expenditure patterns and negatively impact public confidence in EMSA's performance, such as a disregard for the organization's fiduciary responsibilities, deficient financial oversight, and insufficient performance assessments.

It is incumbent on the Board of Trustees to aptly govern EMSA. Policies in support of the Authority's mission must be implemented and consistently followed to ensure effective oversight and accountability. Without proper policies involving purchasing, expense reimbursement, and conflict-of-interest disclosure, the Board has unintentionally fostered a culture of acquiescence in which officers and employees are permitted to establish inappropriate patterns of expenditure behavior and fail to disclose potential conflicts of interest, unbeknownst to members of the Board.

PreserveMidtownSign-200.jpgBatesLine is proud to join PreserveMidtown, Oklahoma Sierra Club, Coalition of Historic Neighborhoods, Tulsans Against Chloramine, Clean Energy Future Oklahoma as sponsor of an informal meet-and-greet with the candidates for Mayor of Tulsa. This may be your last chance to ask them questions before we go to the polls next Tuesday.

The mayoral meet-and-greet will be Wednesday evening, June 5, 2013, 7 p.m., at Harwelden, 2210 S. Main, just a block south of 21st Street and a block east of Riverside Drive.

DON'T FORGET: Wednesday, 5 p.m., is also the deadline to request an absentee ballot at your county election board. Tulsa County residents can also vote early at the election board, 555 N. Denver Ave. on Friday, June 7, 2013, and Monday, June 10, 2013, from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.

This is the first City of Tulsa mayoral election in which candidates are required by state law to file campaign finance reports through the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, rather than the city clerk's office, making it far easier to have access to the reports and analyze them. Tulsa County candidates also must file electronically through the Ethics Commission. The links below will take you directly to each candidate's C1-R pre-primary disclosure. From there you can navigate to the list of individual contributors, loans, PAC contributions, and expenditures.

Tulsa Mayor:

Dewey Bartlett Jr C1-R
Bill Christiansen SO-1 (no C1-R available yet)
Kathy Taylor C1-R

(The other two candidates, Lawrence Kirkpatrick and Jerry Branch, have not filed any paperwork at all.)

Tulsa City Auditor:

Cathy Criswell C1-R
Josh Lewis C1-R
Clift Richards C1-R

Tulsa County Commissioner, District 3

Don Crall C1-R
Brandon Perkins SO-1 (no C1-R available yet)
Ron Peters SO-1 (no C1-R available yet)
John A. Wright C1-R

Some notes:

Perhaps it's a problem with getting used to a new set of rules or a glitch in the online reporting system, but a surprising number of candidates appear to have missed the deadline. For example, Brandon Perkins must have exceeded the $500 expenditure threshold, with a large number of professionally printed signs up for weeks, but he only filed a statement of organization (SO-1) for his campaign last Friday.

Kathy Taylor and Dewey Bartlett Jr have each raised about the same amount of monetary contributions -- Taylor raised $459,500 and Bartlett Jr raised $413,815 -- and yet Taylor has spent almost three times as much -- $1,277,021.91 vs. $447,710.88. The difference: Taylor has lent her campaign $852,000; Bartlett Jr. has lent his campaign $62,000.


Most candidates itemized their expenditures, as the instructions require ("Give the following information for expenditures of more than $1000 in the aggregate to one entity during the reporting period.") but Taylor reported them as two lump sums (with the payee listed as Lump Sum Expenditures, N/a, N/a, OK 12345), which keeps the rest of us from finding out the identities of her campaign consultants and vendors and the amount spent on various types of campaign expenditures.

Kathy Taylor's donors include several out-of-state business associates of her husband, Bill Lobeck, who also made large contributions to Chris Trail's 2009 City Council race against Taylor nemesis Bill Martinson. Many of them gave the maximum amount.

It's interesting to see which donors are hedging their bets in the mayoral race. George Kaiser has given $3,500 to Bartlett Jr and $2,500 to Kathy Taylor, but Kaiser's wife, Myra Block, gave $1,000 to Taylor, making the couple's total $3,500 for each. Joe Craft gave $5,000 each to Bartlett Jr and Taylor, as did Ed Leinbach and Sanjay Meshri. Joe Cappy gave $2,500 to each of the two.

Howard G. Barnett, president of OSU-Tulsa and former chief of staff to former Gov. Frank Keating, gave $5,000 to Bartlett Jr and $2,000 to Taylor. James Adelson, brother of 2009 Democrat mayoral nominee Tom Adelson, gave $1,500 to Taylor and $500 to Bartlett Jr.

Margaret Erling gave $1,000 to Kathy Taylor; Margaret Erling Frette gave $500 to Dewey Bartlett Jr. Attorney Fred Dorwart gave $1,000 to each. Mike Case gave $3,000 to Taylor, $2,500 to Bartlett Jr.

Former Susan Savage aide Jim East gave $250 to Bartlett Jr; his wife, former Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland-East, gave $500 to Taylor.

Stacy Schusterman gave $1,000 to Bartlett Jr, but $5,000 to Taylor. Her mother Lynn Schusterman gave $2,500 to Taylor and nothing to Bartlett Jr. Meredith Siegfried, CEO of Nordam Group, gave $500 to Bartlett Jr, with whom she served on the airport board, but $2,000 to Taylor. Milann Siegfried also gave $500 to Bartlett Jr, but $1,000 to Taylor.

Conspicuously absent from any list is the surname Lorton, but This Land Press publisher Vincent Lovoi gave $5,000 to Kathy Taylor.

The giving patterns suggest to me that, should Bartlett Jr and Taylor both survive to the second round, the Midtown Money Belt will abandon Bartlett Jr and swing behind Taylor. This is the same thing that happened in 2006: The Money Belt made sure that one of their own, Bill LaFortune, survived his primary challenge from Chris Medlock, and that Taylor defeated the more populist Democrat Don McCorkell, to set up a general election that they couldn't lose. But once the primary was over, the money and endorsements went to Taylor. The Money Belt will have won the election should Taylor and Bartlett Jr survive to the second round; Bartlett Jr will be kicked to the curb as no longer useful. The question is whether he would actually fight to keep his job, try to rally Republicans on a partisan basis, or effectively stand aside, putting up only a token fight.

Perhaps an indication of the esteem in which the office is held and the power which the office is perceived to wield, the City Auditor's race is starved for cash. Josh Lewis, who led the EMSA audit for the State Auditor's office, leads the pack with a whopping $7,341.68. Cathy Criswell, who worked in Kathy Taylor's administration, has raised $3,770.00. Incumbent Clift Richards lent his campaign all the money it has -- $1,000. You can't even run an effective city council race on that kind of money, much less a citywide race.

MORE: The Tulsa World has a summary of donors by amount and includes Bill Christiansen's report. Christiansen raised $87,729 and lent his campaign $215,000.

STILL MORE: Dewey Bartlett Jr spent over half of his campaign cash -- $271,486.02 -- with companies based at 7669 Stagers Loop, Delaware, Ohio. Buzzfeed has a story today on this campaign consulting conglomerate that some ex-employees describe as cultlike. Bartlett Jr spent less than 10% of his campaign funds -- $32,452.52 -- with Tulsa vendors and consultants, and all but $6,053.38 of that went to his campaign manager, Daniel Patten.

Runoff was one of the topics mentioned in Tulsa mayoral candidate Bill Christiansen's press conference on Wednesday, May 29, 2013, about the questionable ethics of his principal opponents, former mayor Kathy Taylor and incumbent mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr.

The runoff under discussion isn't the election that will be held in November should no candidate get more than 50% of the vote in the June 11, 2013, non-partisan primary election. It's the runoff that happens when rainfall meets roof, patio, driveway, and parking lot -- any impervious surface that blocks water from being absorbed into the soil. The water has to go somewhere, and the somewhere is downhill, through neighboring properties to the nearest storm drain or creek channel.

In 2007, during Taylor's term as mayor, the City of Tulsa bought and cleared the home of Kathy Taylor's neighbor to the southeast. The allegation is that hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars -- perhaps half a million or more -- were spent on this project to mitigate damage from increased stormwater runoff resulting from the construction of Kathy Taylor's monstrous Midtown mansion. Put another way, Kathy Taylor's conspicuous consumption, it is alleged, made a mess that Tulsa taxpayers have paid dearly to clean up. The facts (detailed after the jump) seem to back up the allegation.


A candidate forum for the Tulsa County Commission District 3 special election, sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Tulsa Community College will be held tomorrow night, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, at the TCC Southeast campus, 81st Street and U. S. 169, in the studio theater, from 6:30 to 7:30. Written questions will be accepted from the audience. All five candidates are expected to attend.

Because of an oddity in Oklahoma election law, there will be no runoff in the special election to fill the remaining year and a half of retiring commissioner Fred Perry's term. The Republican with the most votes in the June 11, 2013, primary, even if the winning percentage is barely over 25%, will face the lone Democrat, John Bomar, in the special general election on August 13, 2013. Four Republicans are running: Former State Rep. John Wright, former State Rep. Ron Peters, Brandon Perkins, and Don Crall.

MORE: Read the candidates' responses to the League of Women Voters Tulsa Election 2013 questionnaire.

John_Eagleton_headshot_2006.JPGMayoral candidates Dewey Bartlett Jr. and Kathy Taylor are "indistinguisable" with regard to policy and the candidates of choice for fans of crony capitalism, while former City Councilor Bill Christiansen "worked harder than a reasonable person would have" on behalf of his constituents and easily reaches across racial, cultural, and political barriers. That's the assessment of former Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton, who served alongside all three major mayoral candidates during his three terms in office from 2006 to 2011 and spoke to BatesLine recently about the upcoming June 11, 2013, primary.

Taylor, Bartlett public safety boasts "laughable"

Both Taylor and Bartlett, Eagleton said, have supported spending every penny that the city brings in, rather than planning for the future. He said that it was laughable for Bartlett and Taylor to tout their records on public safety. Taylor's unrealistic FY2009-2010 budget and Bartlett's refusal to negotiate with the FOP combined to produce the costly layoffs of 145 police officers during Bartlett's first year in office.

Eagleton also noted that Taylor filed the paperwork to dispute a contract arbitration judgment in favor of the FOP, which would have triggered a citywide special election. Taylor retracted the move after polling showed that the electorate would back the police officers' union.

Eagleton says that both Bartlett and Taylor supported maintaining the current condition of the streets, not fixing them. Eagleton and his council allies pushed for a plan that would move the average Pavement Condition Index from 60 to 70; the Bartlett/Taylor plan only moved the needle by two points.

Bartlett, Taylor taking unwarranted credit

Eagleton also notes that Taylor and Bartlett are fond of taking credit for the accomplishments of other. Bartlett ads mention turning the lights back on the expressways and putting the police helicopters back in the air, but Eagleton points out that these measures were a June 2010 City Council proposal; Bartlett vetoed the plan, but the Council unanimously overrode his veto.

Taylor, meanwhile, takes unwarranted credit for bringing the BOK Center on time and under budget, when neither is true. Eagleton points out that Taylor got the extra money to cover BOK Center overruns thanks to her predecessor, Bill LaFortune, who had the foresight to put in place the mechanism for modifying project allocations included in the Vision 2025 ballot resolutions.

Bill Christiansen's genuine concern for Tulsans

Eagleton is endorsing his former council colleague Bill Christiansen. Christiansen and Eagleton had many disagreements during their time together on the City Council, but Eagleton praised Christiansen for his genuine concern for Tulsa and its citizens. "He devoted hundreds of hours dealing with citizens who had gotten bad answers from City Hall." Christiansen had "two dozen meetings" regarding the controversial Sonoma Grande apartment complex at 81st and Mingo, and Christiansen "did everything he could to find a remedy" for the zoning anomaly that had harmed neighboring homeowners. "Bill worked harder than a reasonable person would have."

"I've seen Bill work with Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, liberals, the well-to-do and people who never will be. I've never seen anyone who reaches across racial and cultural barriers as easily." Christiansen is happy to "show up for no apparent reason and talk with people, even those who can't help him financially or politically."

Kathy Taylor MIA, Dewey Bartlett AWOL

Christiansen's presence with Tulsans of all walks of life brought Eagleton to the topic of Bartlett and Taylor's absence when leadership was needed. He mentioned Taylor being "missing in action" when a minority contractor complained that pages removed from his bid on a BOK Center dirt-hauling contract after it was submitted.

Bartlett, he said, was AWOL on the changes to Tulsa's trash service, which made trash pickup more expensive and less convenient for Tulsans. Bartlett had the power to replace members of the trash board whose terms had expired, but he chose not to do so. Eagleton advised Bartlett that the trash system changes should come before the council because of the public safety ramifications of trash accumulating for a week between pickups. Bartlett ignored the opportunity to subject the trash changes to public scrutiny by elected officials.

Eagleton had been an enthusiastic Bartlett supporter on inauguration day 2009. Bartlett's trouble with the council began when Bartlett and his chief of staff told the council that a federal grant could not be reallocated to prevent police layoffs. This wasn't true -- deputy chiefs had approached Bartlett the day after he was sworn in about using the JAG grant to prevent layoffs -- and the withheld information resulted in a layoff that took 124 officers off the streets. Most were eventually recalled, but 61 officers chose not to come back. The layoff and recall was costly to the city, requiring immediate payment of unused leave and comp time to the laid-off officers.

Dewey Bartlett's ethics violations

In May 2011, the City Auditor's office, led by Bartlett's own appointee, found that Dewey Bartlett Jr had committed two ethics violatations by accepting free personal legal services from an attorney who did legal work under contract to the city, including contract extensions which Bartlett had approved.

Eagleton mentioned the Tulsa Development Authority sale of land across Denver Ave from the BOK Center to a company, led by Taylor's stepson-in-law, for $1.5 million, well below the appraised value of $2.4 million. The TDA agreed to the deal in the closing weeks of Taylor's term as mayor.

Eagleton also noted the downtown ballpark, another Taylor initiative, was effectively not a competitive bidding situation, and that it was twice as expensive as it needed to be. (The ballpark, which was bid to cost $39.2 million to build, could have been funded by the $30 million in donations and lease payments from the Drillers, without needing to resort to an onerous assessment on downtown property owners.)

The common characteristic between Bartlett and Taylor, Eagleton said, is crony capitalism. "If you like crony capitalism, Bartlett and Taylor are your candidates. If you think that people should be treated equally, they might not be your best choice. If you're part of a select group, you want Taylor or Bartlett. These are the sort of people who don't worry about streets or parks."


"Dewey and Kathy agree on a lot"

And why is the Oklahoma Republican Party promoting the fundraiser of one of three Republican candidates in the Tulsa mayor's race? (UPDATE: See below.)

Oklahoma City seems like a very odd place for the Mayor of Tulsa to have a fundraising event. Why not pay a Tulsa hotel and Tulsa caterers and keep those dollars generating sales taxes here?

Below is the invitation, on Oklahoma Republican Party letterhead. That's odd, too. There are three Republican candidates in the mayoral primary (Dewey Bartlett Jr, Jerry Branch, Bill Christiansen) so the state party should not be taking sides at this point. If we wind up with a runoff between a Democrat and a Republican, then it would be fine for the state party to get involved, but helping one candidate raise money at this point violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the state party's rules.


Here's the list of hosts:

Ron Atchley, Mr. & Mrs. G.T. Blankenship, Harold Hamm, MaryAnn & Jack Hodges, Mike McDonald, Jeff McDougall, Ray Potts, Joe Warren, David Willis, Dick Bogert, Barbara & F.W. "Pete" Brown, Frank Harrison, Lance Ruffel and Ronnie Irani

The giving levels at the bottom of the invitation define "host" as a $5,000 donor, which suggests that this may already be a $70,000 event. Why would an Oklahoma City resident want to give that much money to influence an election for Tulsa city government?

Oh, and the fundraising company? Cothran Development, based in Ada.

UPDATE 2013/05/23: Yesterday, the Oklahoma Republican Party sent an invitation to a Saturday fundraiser in Tulsa for Bill Christiansen:


The invitation notes that the fundraiser is "provided by Mark and Anja Rogers, Charlie Meadows, & Dr. Robert and Carrie Zoellner" and lists the following names as the fundraising committee: Lloyd Noble Jr., Dan Keating, Bonnie Latsh, George Gibbs, Mark Tedford, Steve Wood, Lela McCoy, Lori Hamilton-Hobbs, Charlie Meadows, Dr. Robert Zoellner.

My guess is that someone from the Bartlett campaign asked state GOP headquarters for help getting word out about their Oklahoma City fundraiser. State party officials, unaware that there's effectively a Republican primary in progress, complied with the wishes of the incumbent Republican. After some blowback from Christiansen supporters, they extended the same opportunity to Christiansen. That's my speculation. I have seen this sort of thing before -- establishment Tulsa types trick OKC allies into taking sides in an intramural Tulsa dispute by not letting them know that there is a dispute and Republicans on both sides of the issue. Grassroots Republicans would do well to give the state GOP, AFP Oklahoma, and similar groups a heads-up when this is likely to occur.

UPDATE 2013/05/24: KRMG's Steve Berg covers the story and this blog entry.

tulsaNow-logo.pngGrassroots civic group TulsaNow sent a questionnaire to the candidates for Mayor of Tulsa; Bill Christiansen and Kathy Taylor responded. There were multiple attempts to contact incumbent Dewey Bartlett Jr, but he did not respond.

Question topics include delays in PLANiTULSA implementation, police department scandals and rising costs, park demolitions, downtown surface parking, mass transit and bike lanes, and economic development.

Two comments for now:

It was encouraging to see that the idea of a downtown surface parking moratorium has become to conventional wisdom in 2013. It was a way-out idea back in 1998, when, as a city council candidate, I proposed a downtown parking summit among TCC, churches, and office building owners to address demolition for parking. As recently as 2006, the CORE Tulsa report, a collection of very modest measures to encourage preservation and discourage demolition downtown, was spiked by the Tulsa Preservation Commission at the urging of Kathy Taylor's administration. Taylor showed no leadership on the issue when she had the opportunity, as mayor, to do so, and you have to assume that her aide Susan Neal was working on Taylor's behalf.

It was discouraging to realize that all three major candidates are social and fiscal liberals. According to Kathy Taylor's response, extending benefits to same-sex partners of city employees "is one area where all three major candidates expressed agreement at the FOP forum." Bill Christiansen's response failed to answer the question: "Bill Christiansen does not discriminate against anyone and is for inclusivity. Bill practices marriage from the biblical meaning and supports the legal meaning of marriage as it is." No one addressed the problem of cost -- would employees bear the full marginal cost of adding coverage, or would we have to squeeze the city budget to pay part or all of it? -- or the question of verification -- how does the city know that this person is really your "domestic partner" and not just an uninsured acquaintance? And no one hit upon the idea of letting an employee add any adult to insurance, without regard to the existence of a "partnership," which would avoid forcing the taxpayers to bless all kinds of immoral relationships as pseudo-marriage for the purpose of benefits.


KTUL has posted video from Wednesday's League of Women Voters debate between incumbent Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr, former Councilor Bill Christiansen, and former Mayor Kathy Taylor. It's not all in one piece and their site is a bit difficult to navigate, so here are direct links to each clip. The first five clips were filmed with each candidate individually; the remainder are responses at the debate to questions from the audience:

City budget
Economic development
Public safety

Tax structure changes
How to attract jobs without an incentive fund
Chloramine in the city water supply
How to attract retail to north Tulsa
Living wage for city employees
How to improve the health of Tulsa residents
Closing remarks

KTUL has posted some post-debate analysis on their site. I haven't watched all of the debate yet. I spent Wednesday evening at an awards ceremony where students in Tulsa Bible Church's Awana chapter were honored for achievements in memorizing Scripture. More important in the long run, I think. Something like 17 high school students were honored for completing the entire, rigorous program. Awana is an international organization; TBC has one of the most active chapters in the country.

City of Tulsa general fund budget by fiscal year and mayor, 2003-2014

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr has released his proposed budget for the upcoming 2013-2014 fiscal year, which begins July 1. (That's an 8 GB PDF.) The budget is slightly lower than last year, reflecting the drop in revenues that caught Bartlett Jr and his administration by surprise, leading to a hiring freeze for the last quarter of the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

The above chart shows the general fund budget over the last 10 years. The complete city budget includes many other funds, but the general fund is a good apples-to-apples comparison, as it doesn't include fee-for-service funds like trash and water. This is the part of the budget where the mayor has the most control.

What you'll notice is a steep climb in the general fund budget under Taylor and again under Bartlett Jr, with a drop in the middle under both mayors when the 2008 recession hit Tulsa and sales tax revenues plummeted.

Here's the thing to remember about government budgeting in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma State Constitution and state statutes require a balanced budget for the state and all of its political subdivisions. While you can issue bonds for capital improvements, you can't simply get out the credit card to pay for operations when you want to spend more than available revenues. A mayor has to cut spending. There is no other option when revenues are down.

But when times are fat and revenues are flowing, a mayor does have a choice: He or she could show restraint and hold spending increases to the rate of inflation. A few voices -- former City Councilor John Eagleton was the most prominent -- called for restraining the growth of government to the rate of inflation, but those voices were ignored.

The other option: The mayor could expand existing programs, create new programs, and allow spending to increase to consume all available revenues, making cuts all the more painful when revenues contract, as they eventually will.


Kathy Taylor opted for the latter course. Taylor boosted the general fund budget by 18.5% over three years, half again faster than the rate of inflation over the same period (June 2005, when Bill LaFortune's last budget was approved, to June 2008, when Taylor's peak budget was approved). Had Taylor kept her spending increases to the rate of inflation, no cuts would have been necessary -- the 2008-2009 budget would have been $242.3 million instead of the actual amount of $255.3 million, and the actual 2009-2010 budget of $244.5 million would have represented an increase.


Dewey Bartlett Jr was an even bigger spendthrift than Kathy Taylor. He cut when he had to in FY 2010-2011, to stay within available revenues, but then Bartlett Jr's general fund budgets rose 17% in just two years, over a period (June 2010 to June 2012) when the CPI rose only 5%. Once again, had Bartlett Jr held his spending to the rate of inflation, the 2012-2013 budget would have been only $245.2 million.

Had spending been held to the rate of inflation through both the Taylor and Bartlett Jr administrations, the City of Tulsa would have avoided painful budget cuts and would have a fatter rainy day fund.

It's time Tulsa got off of the budget roller coaster and took a more cautious, conservative, and steady approach to city budgeting.

MORE: Download the FY13-14 City of Tulsa Proposed Budget.

Here's a table showing the Consumer Price Index month-by-month going all the way back to 1913.


I had hoped for some changes with the change of ownership. Today's Tulsa World story on the mayoral election and Kathy Taylor's Great Plains airlines settlement has undermined that hope.

One positive change -- the pictures make all of the candidates look bad, not just the disfavored candidate. One commenter wrote, "Good lord. Is it my monitor or is the TW going out of their way to make people look bad picture-wise this morning? I feel like I ought to send get well cards."

Now the following paragraph by reporter Zack Stoycoff is at best lazy; at worst it's a sign that the Tulsa Whirled will continue to be Kathy Taylor's waterboy.

In 2008, while Taylor was mayor, the city of Tulsa paid the Bank of Oklahoma $7.1 million to settle a lawsuit against the Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust over a defaulted loan to the defunct Great Plains Airlines. The Oklahoma Supreme Court later ordered the bank to repay the city.

So, Mr. Stoycoff, does the City of Tulsa, a municipal corporation, have a will and a mind of its own that it, as a legal entity, can decide to pay $7.1 million to a bank? Or are there officials that make decisions on behalf of the city?

If you were to do some research in your paper's own archives, you would learn that the Mayor of Tulsa has the authority to agree to a settlement on behalf of the City of Tulsa.
That power was unlimited at the time of the Great Plains settlement in June 2008, but the Great Plains settlement inspired a charter amendment requiring the City Council's concurrence on settlements exceeding $1 million. That provision didn't go into effect until January 2010, a fact that allowed Dewey Bartlett Jr's $3 million settlement of a police lawsuit on October 29, 2009, to move forward without council approval.

So let's rewrite that paragraph in a way that retains a neutral, objective tone, but gives the readers the information they need to evaluate the claims of the various candidates.

In 2008, then-Mayor Kathy Taylor approved the payment of $7.1 million to the Bank of Oklahoma to settle a lawsuit against the Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust over a defaulted loan to the defunct Great Plains Airlines. In 2011, in response to a taxpayer lawsuit, the Oklahoma Supreme Court declared the payment to be illegal and ordered the bank to repay the city.

Maybe Mr. Stoycoff wanted to avoid taking sides on this issue. Maybe he didn't feel he had command of the facts and was worried that Kathy Taylor would sue him too.

But the facts in this case are inconvenient for Kathy Taylor. Kathy Taylor was praised at the time for making the deal that led to the City being added to the lawsuit, followed by Taylor's decision within a day to settle and pay BOK. Dewey Bartlett Jr, as a member of the TAIT board, approved the settlement and praised Kathy Taylor for making it happen:

It's something we need to do and I applaud the mayor and the Bank of Oklahoma for working out a deal... a lot of work went into this thing. It was a waste of energy. It's a new day and that's good news.

A June 27, 2008, story in the Tulsa World quotes outside attorney Robert Sartin, speaking to the Tulsa City Council and telling them that the mayor (that would be Kathy Taylor) accepted the settlement; the council could only decide how to pay the bill. (Emphasis added.)

Before the council votes, Sartin explained that the council was not deciding to accept or reject a settlement.

The settlement had been entered into and accepted earlier Thursday by the bank, the mayor and the Tulsa Airport Improvements Trust, then filed in Tulsa County District Court.

"The issue is whether to appropriate the money from the sinking fund," Sartin told the councilors.

He told them that if they didn't take action, the bank could ask a court to force the payment.

The sinking fund is derived from property taxes and is used to pay legal judgments against the city.

The $7.1 million would be taken from the fund and then recouped with a three-year levy in property taxes, which Finance Director Mike Kier said would start at 1.1 mills and decrease slightly over the three years.

I haven't heard the robocall that prompted Kathy Taylor's complaints, but if it said that Kathy Taylor was responsible for the illegal payment of $7.1 million by the City of Tulsa to the Bank of Oklahoma, it was accurate and in accord with published facts and court findings.

Tuesday's news story quotes Taylor's claim that this is mudslinging; her call to "focus on the issues" is another example of her refusal to accept responsibility for her actions. Kathy Taylor wants credit for being a mayor who got things done, but she doesn't want the rightful blame attached to the damage caused by the way she got things done.

Kathy Taylor's record as a leader is a central issue in this campaign. The voters should consider whether Kathy Taylor failed to act with integrity and whether she served special interests over the interests of ordinary Tulsans. The idea that she would escape any accountability for her first term as mayor -- well, to quote Kathy Taylor on another occasion when she attempted to deflect accountability for her actions:

Kathy Taylor says, That. Is. Crazy

MORE: An Oklahoman article from 2002 notes that the then-Tulsa Mayor, Bill LaFortune, was the one with the authority to accept or reject a proposed settlement of the lawsuit brought against the city by the Black Officers Coalition.

Citing the last-minute entry of former State Rep. John Wright into the Tulsa County Commission District 3 special election, Ronda Vuillemont-Smith has announced her withdrawal from the race. Vuillemont-Smith heads the Tulsa 9.12 Project, a Tea Party organization, and led last year's defeat of the Vision2 county sales tax.

TULSA, OKLAHOMA - APRIL 12, 2013 - Ronda Vuillemont-Smith, candidate for Tulsa County Commission, District 3, is withdrawing from the race set for June 11, 2013. "I entered the county commissioners race to ensure that the tax payers of Tulsa County would have a common sense, conservative voice at the table when dealing with their hard earned money, " states Vuillemont-Smith, "I am announcing my withdrawal from this race today as I feel that the people can have that voice with John Wright. He is a capable candidate with a willingness to get things done in Tulsa County."

"Part of my vision for Tulsa County is to see us move from paying bonding fees and interest and follow Oklahoma City's plan of pay-as-you-go, where we could make money on our deposits as opposed to spending tax payer's money with nothing to show for it. Cutting up the county credit cards is necessary if we want to move Tulsa County forward."

Vuillemont-Smith made her decision to withdraw following John Wright's entry to the race, believing that they would both pull from the same conservative voters and in a 'winner take all' race that the votes need to remain united. "This race is about changing the face of Tulsa County government, not about an individual, and certainly not about me," Vuillemont-Smith continues.

Vuillemont-Smith's voice will continue to be heard through citizen activism in groups like Citizens for a Better Vision and Tulsa 9.12 Project. With the 'Fix our Streets' package approaching, she will continue her role as a voice for limited government and lower taxes. Vuillemont-Smith is a vocal conservative, actively working for lower taxes and smaller government; she is an ordinary citizen working to make our community a better place to work and live.

"I am truly honored and humbled by all the support I have received, it only proves that people are eager for common sense solutions to issues dealing with your hard earned money," concludes Vuillemont-Smith.

"There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit." ~Ronald Reagan

Filing ended Wednesday with a surprise: The last minute entry of former State Rep. John Wright in the Tulsa County Commission District 3 race, along with a Democrat, John Bomar, the first time a Democrat has run for this seat for as long as I can recall. One more candidate entered the City Auditor's race: Cathy Ann Criswell.

All three incumbent City Councilors were re-elected without drawing an opponent. It's a predictable consequence of staggered, non-partisan elections; happens all the time in school board races.

Here's the complete list of all filings as posted on the Tulsa County Election Board website, with Wednesday's filers highlighted in bold print. Here are direct links to the official list of City of Tulsa Election 2013 filings and Tulsa County Commission Election 2013 filings.

For Mayor of Tulsa:

William Lee Christiansen, 11422 S. Granite Ave., Tulsa, OK 74137, 12/23/1947
Kathy Taylor, 2811 S. Columbia Pl., Tulsa, OK 74114, 9/29/1955
Lawrence F. Kirkpatrick, 1108 N. Harvard, Tulsa, OK 74115, 9/13/1945
Jerry Dewayne Branch, 519 S. 45TH W. Ave., Tulsa, OK 74127, 3/29/1964
Dewey Follett Bartlett, Jr., 2426 E. 30th St., Tulsa, OK 74114, 3/16/1947

For Tulsa City Auditor:

Clift Richards, 7834 S. College Pl., Tulsa, OK 74136, 2/7/1940
Joshua Steven Lewis, 8509 E. 47th St., Tulsa, OK 74145, 9/20/1982
Cathy Ann Criswell, 3322 E. King St., Tulsa, OK 74115, 7/10/1954

For Tulsa City Council District 2:

Jeannie Cue, 5313 S. 32 West Pl., Tulsa, OK 74107, 1/22/1954

For Tulsa City Council District 5:

Karen Gilbert, 4611 S. Maplewood Ave., Tulsa, OK 74135, 8/9/1968

For Tulsa City Council District 8:

Philip Lawrence Lakin, Jr., 4915 E. 104th Pl., Tulsa, OK 74137, 8/5/1967

For Tulsa County Commission District 3:

Brandon Perkins, 7221 S. Columbia Pl., Tulsa, OK 74136, 8/20/1969, Republican
Don Crall, 17712 S. Sheridan Rd., Tulsa, OK 74008, 6/16/1964, Republican
Ron Peters, 4432 S. Atlanta Pl., Tulsa, OK 74105, 9/28/1944, Republican
Ronda Vuillemont-Smith, 3909 W. Roanoke St., Broken Arrow, OK 74011, 3/13/1961, Republican
John Bomar, 7326 E. 65th Pl., Tulsa, Ok 74133, 9/7/1948, Democrat
John A. Wright, 2319 S. Beech Ct., Broken Arrow, Ok 74012 8/5/1954 Republican

Only two new filers today: Incumbent Tulsa Mayor Dewey F Bartlett Jr and Joshua Steven Lewis, a 30-year-old challenging City Auditor Clift Richards.

Here's the list of all filings through Tuesday as posted on the Tulsa County Election Board website, with Tuesday's filers highlighted in bold print.

For Mayor of Tulsa:

William Lee Christiansen, 11422 S. Granite Ave., Tulsa, OK 74137, 12/23/1947
Kathy Taylor, 2811 S. Columbia Pl., Tulsa, OK 74114, 9/29/1955
Lawrence F. Kirkpatrick, 1108 N. Harvard, Tulsa, OK 74115, 9/13/1945
Jerry Dewayne Branch, 519 S. 45TH W. Ave., Tulsa, OK 74127, 3/29/1964
Dewey Follett Bartlett, Jr., 2426 E. 30th St., Tulsa, OK 74114, 3/16/1947

For Tulsa City Auditor:

Clift Richards, 7834 S. College Pl., Tulsa, OK 74136, 2/7/1940
Joshua Steven Lewis, 8509 E. 47th St., Tulsa, OK 74145, 9/20/1982

For Tulsa City Council District 2:

Jeannie Cue, 5313 S. 32 West Pl., Tulsa, OK 74107, 1/22/1954

For Tulsa City Council District 5:

Karen Gilbert, 4611 S. Maplewood Ave., Tulsa, OK 74135, 8/9/1968

For Tulsa City Council District 8:

Philip Lawrence Lakin, Jr., 4915 E. 104th Pl., Tulsa, OK 74137, 8/5/1967

For Tulsa County Commission District 3:

Brandon Perkins, 7221 S. Columbia Pl., Tulsa, OK 74136, 8/20/1969, Republican
Don Crall, 17712 S. Sheridan Rd., Tulsa, OK 74008, 6/16/1964, Republican
Ron Peters, 4432 S. Atlanta Pl., Tulsa, OK 74105, 9/28/1944, Republican

Filing for Mayor of Tulsa, City Auditor, three city council seats, and the special election for Tulsa County Commissioner District 3 began today, April 8, 2013, and runs through Wednesday, April 10, 2013.

Four candidates filed for mayor: Former Councilor Bill Christiansen, Former Mayor Kathy Taylor, frequent mayoral candidate Lawrence F. Kirkpatrick, and Jerry Dewayne Branch. Incumbent Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr. did not file today.

The incumbent auditor Clift Richards and incumbent councilors for Districts 2, 5, and 8 (Jeannie Cue, Karen Gilbert, and Phil Lakin) all filed, and none have drawn an opponent as yet. The incumbents were all elected as Republicans.

Three Republican candidates filed the race to fill the last 16 months of County Commissioner Fred Perry's term, Planning commissioner and homebuilder Brandon Perkins, former state representative Ron Peters, and Don Crall. Ronda Vuillemont-Smith announced that she would officially file on Wednesday, in honor of her late father's birthday.

Here's the list of today's filings as posted on the Tulsa County Election Board website.

For Mayor of Tulsa:

William Lee Christiansen, 11422 S. Granite Ave., Tulsa, OK 74137, 12/23/1947
Kathy Taylor, 2811 S. Columbia Pl., Tulsa, OK 74114, 9/29/1955
Lawrence F. Kirkpatrick, 1108 N. Harvard, Tulsa, OK 74115, 9/13/1945
Jerry Dewayne Branch, 519 S. 45TH W. Ave., Tulsa, OK 74127, 3/29/1964

For Tulsa City Auditor:

Clift Richards, 7834 S. College Pl., Tulsa, OK 74136, 2/7/1940

For Tulsa City Council District 2:

Jeannie Cue, 5313 S. 32 West Pl., Tulsa, OK 74107, 1/22/1954

For Tulsa City Council District 5:

Karen Gilbert, 4611 S. Maplewood Ave., Tulsa, OK 74135, 8/9/1968

For Tulsa City Council District 8:

Philip Lawrence Lakin, Jr., 4915 E. 104th Pl., Tulsa, OK 74137, 8/5/1967

For Tulsa County Commission District 3:

Brandon Perkins, 7221 S. Columbia Pl., Tulsa, OK 74136, 8/20/1969, Republican
Don Crall, 17712 S. Sheridan Rd., Tulsa, OK 74008, 6/16/1964, Republican
Ron Peters, 4432 S. Atlanta Pl., Tulsa, OK 74105, 9/28/1944, Republican

Today, March 23, 2013, the Tulsa County Republican Party held its biennial convention at the Jenks High School Performing Arts Center. In the spring of each odd-numbered year, Oklahoma Republicans gather in precinct caucuses, where they elect precinct officers and elect delegates to the County Convention who elect a county party chairman and vice chairman, two State Committee members, and two Congressional District Committee members to a two-year term. The county convention also elects delegates to the state convention, where a state chairman and vice chairman are chosen for a two-year term. 375 delegates were present.

(There is also a quadrennial series of meetings at the precinct, county, district, and state level, for the purpose of election national convention delegates and members of the Republican National Committee.)

Because of a change in the state party rules, there are no longer any gender quotas in precinct, county, and state Republican offices. Where we used to elect a state committeeman, state committeewoman, district committeeman, and district committeewoman, we now simply elect two members to each committee, which changes the political calculus considerably. All nominees for a particular committee were on the ballot for both seats. A coalition of Ron Paul supporters and Tea Party supporters united around a consistent slate, to the point that the candidate designated for the second seat voted against herself and for the designated first-seat candidate when the first seat was up for election. They had a near-majority in the hall with enough other supporters to prevail.

Here are the results:

Chairman: Mike McCutchin, the current vice chairman, was elected chairman without opposition.

Vice Chairman: Joanne Tyree, a long-time party and campaign volunteer, was elected vice chairman without opposition.

State Committee: There were six candidates for two seats: Bruce Baker, Rachel Brewer, Joanna Francisco, Charlotte Harer, Chris Medlock, T. C. Ryan. Ryan, 28, and Francisco, 44, were elected. Both were active in support of Ron Paul for president, and Ryan was also very involved in the successful Stop Vision 2 campaign.

Ryan fell just short of a first-round victory for the first seat with 48%; Francisco and Baker were eliminated and Medlock withdrew in support of Harer. Ryan received 60% of the vote on the second round to win. For the second seat, Medlock, Brewer, and Baker withdrew and urged support for Harer; Francisco won.

District Committee: The winners were Don Wyatt, 66, one of the incumbents, who also runs Boondoggle Blog, and Amanda Teegarden, 57, of OK-SAFE. The other candidates were incumbent committeewoman Donna Mills and Aaron Brewer.

A straw poll was taken in the Tulsa Mayor's race and the Tulsa County Commission District 3 special election, which will both be on the June 11 primary ballot. Although the mayor's race is officially non-partisan, Bill Christiansen and Dewey Bartlett Jr are both registered Republicans; Bartlett Jr was even a leading member of "Republicans for Kathy [Taylor]" in 2009; and both are vying for the support of Republcans. The District 3 race is likely to be settled in the primary, as it was the last time the seat was open in 2006. The results:

Tulsa Mayor: Former City Councilor Bill Christiansen 114, Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr 56.

Tulsa County Commission District 3: Ronda Vuillemont-Smith 102, Ron Peters 24, Don Crall 17, Terry Simonson 6. Vuillemont-Smith heads the local 9/12 Project chapter and was a leader of the opposition to Vision2. Ron Peters is the former State Representative for District 70. Don Crall is from Bixby. Terry Simonson is former county commission chief deputy and chief of staff to Dewey Bartlett Jr.

Brandon Perkins announced his candidacy for the District 3 seat at the convention; his name was not on the straw poll ballot. I believe that he is a member of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission and the brother of Mark Perkins, who ran as an independent for mayor of Tulsa in 2009.

The convention voted overwhelmingly to approve the report of the Platform Committee and voted to send all county convention delegates as Tulsa County's delegates to the state convention.

There were some technical hiccups with registration which delayed completion of the credentials report, but we managed to adjourn at about 5 p.m., an hour later than planned but well before our move-out time.


Randy Krehbiel reported on the convention for the Tulsa World. 375 delegates checked in Saturday morning and were issued credentials; Krehbiel gave the number as 300. While I'd agree that the contested elections were a better indication of the shifts in the party than uncontested elections, having served four years as Tulsa County's state committeeman, I don't agree that the "state and district committee members... are ultimately responsible for party policy," at least not to the level of influence that that statement implies. They are indeed members of the county party central committee, along with the chairman and vice chairman, but the chairman has the power to appoint the executive committee, and he is the party's public face, and it's the county committee, consisting of all the precinct chairmen and vice chairmen, that officially governs the party between conventions.

Both the state committee and district committee are mainly focused on the nuts and bolts of party governance -- holding conventions, filling vacancies in party offices, making recommendations on rules changes -- rather than on governmental policy. The state committee is the governing body of the state party between conventions, but Tulsa County's two votes are a mere drop in the bucket; every county has two members, and all the Republican legislators, members of Congress, and statewide elected officials are also members of the state committee. The state committee meets quarterly, mainly to hear reports on party fundraising and activities. If the chairman or vice chairman resigns, the state committee elects a replacement, and that's happened fairly often in the last 10 years. The state committee meets right before the state convention to vote on whether to recommend proposed state rules changes to the convention, which must approve any rules changes.

The main concern of the district committee -- which consists of two members from each county in the district -- is putting on the quadrennial congressional district convention that elects three delegates and three alternates to the national convention. The district committee also elects a district chairman and vice chairman. In Oklahoma, congressional district chairmen have traditionally been involved in candidate recruitment for state legislature, an especially important role in the 1990s when the GOP was in the minority.

I'll be on 1170 KFAQ Wednesday morning at 7 with Pat Campbell to talk about mayoral candidate and former Tulsa mayor Kathy Taylor's record during her term from April 2006 to December 2009.*


Taylor is claiming to have "cut wasteful spending," but in fact the general fund budget under her reign climbed from $215,413,000 (LaFortune's last budget, FY2005-2006) to $255,271,000 (FY2008-2009), an 18.5% increase in just three years, about twice the rate of inflation over the same period. Her final budget ($244,511,000 for FY 2009-2010) was only slightly lower in response to the worldwide fiscal crisis, despite Councilor Bill Martinson's warnings, only 4% below its high water mark; spending had to be cut more drastically after she left office.

I'm sure we'll be talking about Taylor's budget record and about her decision to join Mayor Michael "Nanny" Bloomberg's Mayors against Illegal Guns, a group that wanted the federal government to be able to keep records of lawful gun purchases, and her pledge for local implementation of the provisions of the Kyoto Treaty on global warming, among other low-lights of her term. Almost certainly we'll talk of how Taylor surrendered to a questionable lawsuit so as to force Tulsa taxpayers to pay $7.1 million owed by defunct Great Plains Airlines, a locally based carrier that claimed it would fly non-stop jets from Tulsa to the coasts but which never got farther than Albuquerque. The Oklahoma Supreme Court set aside the Tulsa-Great Plains judgment in 2011.

What we cannot forget, however, is that Dewey Bartlett Jr., the current mayor, was OK with Kathy Taylor's record. In 2009, when Taylor was running for re-election -- before she decided to bail out -- Dewey Bartlett Jr endorsed Kathy Taylor for re-election:

Dewey Bartlett Jr endorses Kathy Taylor for Mayor of Tulsa

"Tulsa has always had a history of great leadership from the business community. Kathy's tireless, visionary style is yet another example of non-partisan leadership that focuses on the future of Tulsa. I am proud to support her re-election efforts." Dewey Bartlett Jr., President Keener Oil and Gas Company

Recently, Dewey Bartlett Jr was asked by KFAQ's Pat Campbell, whether he would endorse fellow Republican Bill Christiansen if he himself failed to make the runoff. Bartlett Jr's reply: "Absolutely, I think the Republican philosophy of conservatism... is the type of philosophy we need to run this city... we have to have that." And yet in 2009, Bartlett Jr supported re-electing a Democrat, specifically a big-spending, gun-grabbing believer in anthropogenic global-warming malarkey, without even waiting to see who her Republican opponent might be.

And not only did Dewey Bartlett Jr endorse the Kathy Taylor who improperly gave away $7.1 million in our taxes to Bank of Oklahoma, Dewey Bartlett Jr actually praised Taylor and BOK for this Great Plains Airlines raw deal, and then he voted for it, as a member of the Tulsa Airport Improvements Trust. (Click the link to watch the video.)

Dewey Bartlett Jr, Tulsa mayorI don't know how to account for the cognitive dissonance between Bartlett Jr's 2009 endorsement of a big-spending, leftist Democrat running for re-election and his 2013 statement that we need the "Republican philosophy of conservatism" running Tulsa. I'd call him Dewey Gump, but I think it'd be an insult to Forrest Gump, who was a better judge of character and seemingly more aware of his surroundings.

MORE: Taylor for Tulsa has been running misleading Facebook ads to juice up the number of "likes" for Kathy Taylor's campaign page. The ads tell you to click "Like" if you like little baby ducks, old pick-up trucks, slow moving trains, and rain, among other things. A recent example -- a picture of the Tulsa skyline with the caption "Click 'Like' if you support a mayor committed to reducing crime in Tulsa." This is a misleading ad, and should be reported as such by clicking the X that appears when you hover your mouse over the ad, then click "Hide this ad," then click the circle next to "Misleading."

*The odd length of term was the result of the switch from mayoral elections in the spring of even numbered years to the fall of odd numbered years.

Former House District 70 representative Ron Peters has announced his candidacy for the Tulsa County Commission District 3 seat being vacated by retiring Commissioner Fred Perry.

In 2003, Peters was one of six Republicans to support a state lottery, breaking ranks with the vast majority of the GOP caucus. Had Peters and one other Republican voted no, the lottery would have failed. In 2004, Peters was one of only five Republicans supporting casino gaming, and once again, had two of the five defected to the other side, the measure would have failed.

In a 2006 UTW column, I singled out Peters as an incumbent in need of a Republican challenger, mainly for his bills that would have damaged local control and homeowner input into land use and zoning issues. That year, Peters co-sponsored two bills (SB 1324 and HB 2559) to interfere with city policy on special exceptions and historic preservation districts.

Ron Peters, who represents House District 70 in midtown, is one of those who need to go. Off the record, his Republican colleagues will tell you that he is one of the least cooperative, least trustworthy, least principled members of their caucus. They'd be happy to see him go.

Peters was one of a half-dozen Republicans who broke with the party to support the lottery and the introduction of full-fledged casino gambling, with all their accompanying social ills.

SB 1324 and HB 2559 are not his first assaults on homeowners' rights and local control of land use issues. In 2005, Peters and Crain co-authored HB 1911.

In addition to the Board of Adjustment provisions that made their way into SB 1324, the earlier bill would have removed notice requirements for property owners within a redevelopment (i.e., urban renewal) district. Owners would not have had to be notified about public hearings regarding redevelopment plans affecting their property. It also would have removed a requirement for redevelopment plans to be approved by the City Council.

Peters hasn't had a challenger since he first won the seat in the 2000 Republican primary. A conservative Republican challenger could unseat him, if only one would step forward.

Peters' list of endorsers on his announcement press release reads like a who's-who of midtowners who regularly push for higher taxes and less democracy. Don Walker was co-chairman of the failed Vision2 Tulsa County sales tax scheme. Larry Mocha, has an op-ed in the Sunday paper pleading for Oklahoma to implement Obamacare's Medicaid expansion.

Many on Peters' list supported the failed and divisive 2005 recall attempt against Chris Medlock and Jim Mautino; compare his supporters to the list of donors to the pro-recall Coalition for Responsible Government 2004. Or compare the list on Peters' press release to this list of supporters of "Save Our Tulsa" and this list of advisory board members for "Tulsans for Better Government," both groups that pushed for the election of at-large city councilors, a move that would have concentrated power in wealthy midtown neighborhoods at the expense of the rest of Tulsa.

The first name on Peters' list is Bob Dick, the former County Commissioner for District 3. Conservatives were happy to see Dick retire in 2006. In 2005, I wrote a column for UTW cataloging the County Commission's fondness for sole-source contracts under Bob Dick's leadership. In 2002, the Tulsa World reported on Dick's "dear friend" John Piercey and the loans he had obtained through the Tulsa County Industrial Authority (whose board consists of the three county commissioners) to buy apartment complexes.

Based on his record and his list of supporters, I'd suspect that Peters will vote to put another county tax on the ballot, will work against transparency and competitive bidding in county government, for gimmicky approaches to economic development, will support the appointment of anti-neighborhood types to the three county seats on the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, and will subordinate the needs of unincorporated Tulsa County to the wants of Midtown Tulsa's Money Belt. Those of us who believe in limited, transparent, and responsive government will be looking for a better candidate for the Tulsa County Commission District 3 seat.

Last year the City of Tulsa changed the secondary disinfectant used in our drinking water from chlorine to chloramine, a derivative of ammonia. The change was to meet EPA regulations intended to eliminate a carcinogenic by-product of chlorine disinfection (trihalomethanes), but the replacement method has its own unpleasant side effects: Chloramine-treated water can't be used in fish ponds or for dialysis, it can cause rubber plumbing parts to deteriorate, may leach lead from old pipes, and there are concerns that it hasn't thoroughly been tested for health effects on humans.

A group called Tulsans Against Chloramine attempted unsuccessfully to persuade the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority to stop the conversion to chloramine and opt for a safer method of disinfection. Since the conversion, TAC has been continuing to work to educate the public about their concerns and building pressure to reverse the decision.

Tulsans Against Chloramine have invited candidates for Tulsa mayor to attend their meeting this Tuesday night, March 12, 2013, at 6:30 at Hardesty Regional Library, 8316 E 93rd St, Tulsa. The speaker will be Robert Bowcock, an expert on the use of chloramines in public water supplies.

Join Tulsans Against Chloramine for a meeting to discuss the CHLORAMINE in our water supply and what WE can do to reverse the decision. The Tulsa Mayoral candidates have been invited to attend this meeting. We feel it is important for them to know our concerns and to have the most up to date information regarding Chloramine.

Let's make Tulsa a city that does the right thing for the health and property of its people as well as our environment.

Our guest speaker is Mr. Robert Bowcock, who is a national water specialist and an American Water Works Association member for over 30 years. He conducts environmental investigations with Erin Brockovich. Mr. Bowcock is working with TAC to stop the use of Chloramine and move towards a safer alternative for the Tulsa area.

Please join us to make a difference in our community.

Former City Councilor Roscoe Turner has announced his endorsement of his long-time Council colleague Bill Christiansen in the 2013 race for Mayor of Tulsa. Christiansen will face two other announced candidates, incumbent Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr. and former Mayor Kathy Taylor.

From the Christiansen campaign news release:

Roscoe Turner, former Tulsa City Councilor, as the Golden DrillerIn welcoming the support of the long-time north Tulsa leader Christiansen cited the Turner endorsement as yet another sign that the people of our community are excited about the prospect of a Mayor for all Tulsa. Christiansen stated, "Roscoe has a reputation for telling it like it is and standing up for the interests of Tulsans. His confidence in me and our campaign is a great honor."

Turner stated: "I have never before publically endorsed another city candidate for office. I would not be involved in this election if I did not feel strongly that if Bill Christiansen is not elected, the people of Tulsa will suffer. Now more than ever we need a Mayor that seeks to be a servant leader - not the city boss. During his time on the City Council Bill had a great relationship with everyone he worked with. He showed genuine concern for every part of Tulsa. When he says he wants to a Mayor for all of Tulsa his words are consistent with his past actions."

Turner pointed to the recent city-wide defeat of the Vision 2 package as proof that the people of Tulsa are ready to stand up to the special interests and demand competence and accountability before supporting spending programs. Turner said, "Like the successful fight against Vision 2, I am calling on Tulsans to get the facts, and don't be fooled by big money gimmicks. We need to show up in record numbers and prove once again, the day has past when the select few can buy the votes of the people of North, East, West and South Tulsa."

The endorsement by Turner is an indication of Christiansen's political transformation from Chambercrat to populist reformer. The same Money Belt-backed push that defeated Turner in the 2002 Democratic primary also helped Christiansen unseat incumbent Todd Huston. Huston and Turner had both opposed "It's Tulsa's Time," the failed Chamber-backed attempt to raise the city sales tax for a sports arena in 2000, marking them for establishment revenge.

When Turner returned to the Council in 2004, he aligned himself with the "Gang of Five," an ethnically and geographically diverse coalition of councilors (Jack Henderson, Jim Mautino, Chris Medlock, Sam Roop, and Turner) representing the historically neglected western, northern, and eastern periphery of Tulsa. Christiansen was aligned on the other side with Randy Sullivan, Tom Baker, and Susan Neal, opposing the Gang of Five on council organization, Chamber funding, investigation of airport mismanagement, and neighborhood issues.

Bill Christiansen, 2013 candidate for Tulsa MayorIn later years, Christiansen was confronted by threats to neighborhood integrity and citizen involvement in planning. Christiansen opposed the proposed Yale alignment for a new bridge to Bixby, putting him at odds with many erstwhile allies. The treatment of neighboring homeowners in the rezoning and development of a south Tulsa apartment complex prompted Christiansen to push for and co-chair a Council task force on land use communication in 2009. That same year, Christiansen was targeted for defeat by the same establishment that had elevated him in 2002, but he successfully turned back a challenge from Tulsa Community Foundation head Phil Lakin. Christiansen opted not to run for re-election in 2011. In 2012, Christiansen came out in opposition to the Vision2 county sales tax scheme, as did Turner.

If Christiansen can sew up the support of north, south, west, and east Tulsa while Taylor and Bartlett Jr fight over their core constituency in the Midtown Money Belt, Christiansen has a strong chance of beating his wealthier competitors in the June primary. A contested special Republican primary election the same day should boost turnout in south Tulsa where it should also boost Christiansen's chances.

MORE: Bill Christiansen has opened a campaign headquarters at 3939 S. Harvard Ave.

Tulsa County District 3 Commissioner Fred Perry announced today that he will resign effective July 8, 2013, about 18 months before the expiration of his second term as a commissioner. (Read the press release at TheOkie.com.) The announcement comes three months after Perry, age 72, underwent a heart procedure; Perry cited "health reasons" as the motivation for stepping down.

Perry's political career will end as it began, with a mid-term resignation. In January 1994, Perry won a three-way, all-GOP special election to fill the House District 69 created by the resignation of David Smith. Perry was term-limited in the legislature in 2006, when he ran for the County Commission District 3 after incumbent Bob Dick announced his decision not to seek re-election. Perry advanced to a runoff in a crowded Republican primary, then defeated Tulsa City Councilor Bill Christiansen in the runoff to win the election, as no Democrat filed for the office.

Perry, who was elected to the County Commission with the support of grassroots conservative volunteers, disappointed many of his backers by voting to advance the 2007 county sales tax for river projects and the 2012 Vision2 county sales tax. Both measures were turned down by voters.

Fred Perry and I have often been at odds during his time as County Commissioner, particularly concerning the sales tax propositions he supported and disputes between the county and the City of Tulsa (e.g. annexation of the Fairgrounds and the jail agreement). To his credit, he never hesitated to make his case in writing, whether in the comments here at BatesLine or in the pages of Urban Tulsa Weekly.

During his time in office, a number of improvements have been made to the Tulsa County website. Early in his term, as chairman of the county commission, Perry arranged to distribute ex officio board memberships among all the commissioners, rather than putting the full burden on the person holding the chairmanship, which by tradition rotates annually among the three commissioners.

In his resignation press release, Perry has proposed that the special election to replace him could be held at the same time as Tulsa's mayoral election, with the special primary at the same time as the city's primary on June 11 and the general election at the same time as the city runoff (if needed) on August 13. The special county commission primary could have an impact on the non-partisan mayor's race, driving up Republican turnout in south Tulsa, Bill Christiansen's home turf.

(The latest set of city election dates is so new -- it was approved in June 2012 -- it has yet to be incorporated into the online version of the Tulsa City Charter. Here is the markup version, showing the changes approved in June 2012.)

Here's wishing Fred Perry a long, healthy, and happy retirement.

The first step toward electing county and state officials and reshaping the platform for the Oklahoma Republican Party is about to get underway. GOP precinct caucuses for Tulsa County will be held over the next three days (Thursday through Saturday, February 7-9, 2013); each precinct chairman can select the precinct's own meeting time and location within that window. Here is a document listing all the Tulsa County precincts and the meeting date, time, location, and chairman for each. Many precinct chairmen are opting to share a central location with other precincts from the same state house district. These central meetings will conduct opening ceremonies together (invocation, flag salute, announcements) then break into groups by precinct.

To find your precinct number, visit the Oklahoma State Election Board's precinct locator.

Each precinct caucus will elect precinct officers to serve for the next two years, will elect delegates to the county convention, and will vote on resolutions to be considered for inclusion in the county platform.

Something that I hope will be discussed in every precinct is whether the local Republican Party organization should hold an endorsing convention for this fall's race for Mayor of Tulsa. This will be the first non-partisan mayoral election to be held in Tulsa for 90 years or so, and there are likely to be at least two Republican candidates running, and possibly more than two conservatives. Just because there are no party labels on the ballot doesn't prohibit a party from endorsing the candidate that they deem best able to win and govern according to the party's platform. School elections and most municipal elections in Oklahoma are conducted without reference to party labels; there should be a standard process by which local parties can endorse in these races.

I also hope that precinct caucuses will consider and pass resolutions on local issues, which are often overlooked in favor of highly publicized national issues. A platform plank opposing, say, any county tax that funds municipal projects or renewal of the Vision 2025 sales tax or creation of a "deal closing" corporate welfare fund gives party officials a platform from which to speak against such proposals, even when they're put forward by Republican elected officials.

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