Tulsa Election 2016 Category
There are three contested county offices on the Tulsa County ballot. Republican Josh Turley seeks to defeat incumbent Democrat Commissioner Karen Keith in County Commission District 2. Republican Don Newberry and Democrat John R. Andrew are vying for the Court Clerk position, left open by the retirement of Sally Howe Smith. Republican Sheriff Vic Regalado and Democrat Rex Berry are in a rematch of the April special election to replace Stanley Glanz.
A recent, seemingly unrelated news item raised an issue that should be considered by Tulsa County voters tomorrow. State bond adviser Jim Joseph and State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones spoke out against the widespread practice of school districts waiving competitive bids for bond issues.
Oklahoma school districts are spending millions of taxpayers' dollars every year by paying high fees for financial advisers, bond counsel and underwriters, says Jim Joseph, the state's bond adviser.
Many school districts continue to do the same thing year after year, while stubbornly refusing to use cost-saving competitive selection measures, he said.
"It's like picking a roofer right after a storm because he's the first guy who came to your door," Joseph said. "You're not going to get a deal, that's for sure."
State Auditor Gary Jones agreed school boards could save Oklahoma taxpayers money by obtaining competitive quotes.
"There could be tens of millions of dollars saved over a short period of time," Jones said.
Joseph went on to compare the massive fees paid by school districts to bond counsel and financial advisers, often a percentage of the bond issue, with the smaller amounts state agencies paid for much larger bond issue. Several were listed; here's one example:
For example, Midwest City-Del City Public Schools did a $72.62 million bond issue in 2012 without competitive bids. It paid the Floyd Law Firm of Norman $363,100 for serving as bond counsel and allowed Stephen H. McDonald & Associates and BOSC Inc., a subsidiary of BOK Financial Corporation, to equally split $508,340 for serving as co-financial advisers, records show.
Compare that with a $310.48 million bond issue by the Grand River Dam Authority that was done in 2014 through a competitive process. The state paid a $114,000 bond counsel fee and a $133,448 financial adviser fee.
Although the Grand River Dam Authority bond issue was more than four times as large as the Midwest City-Del City school bond issue, the school district paid more than triple the amount in bond counsel and financial adviser fees, records show.
Joseph pointed out that bond counsel, underwriter, and financial advisers often each take 1% of the bond issue as their fee, which Joseph says "makes no sense at all. It doesn't take any more work to do a $20 million issue than a $10 million issue for the bond counsel and financial adviser, but the fee is twice as high, if payment is on a percentage basis."
What does this have to do with Tulsa County? Joseph noted that the firm of Hilborne & Weidman was frequently listed as bond counsel for these competition-waived bond issues. Hilborne & Weidman was also one of two bond counsel firms selected in 2003 by the Tulsa County commissioners (acting as the Tulsa County Industrial Authority) for the Vision 2025 revenue bonds, a massive bond issue against up to all 13 years of the new sales tax. I urged at the time that Tulsa County put all Vision 2025 bond-related contracts up for competitive bid, as commissioners haggled publicly over which firms would get a piece of the action, but they waived competitive bidding and split the baby, giving each favored firm half of the business.
Over the last 13 years, there's been a complete turnover on the County Commission, but the tradition of waiving competitive bidding has persisted. Here's one example from May 26, 2009, in Karen Keith's first year as a commissioner ($110 million in bonds), another from February 1, 2010.
On May 23, 2016, the commissioners, including Karen Keith, voted unanimously to waive competitive bidding on indebtedness, but neither the minutes nor the agenda explain the amount or nature of the indebtedness. Given the proximity to the April 2016 Vision Tulsa vote, my guess is that the vote was on the revenue bonds pledged against that new 15-year sales tax stream.
How many more projects might have been built if Vision 2025 bonds had been competitively bid? Could we have had a new juvenile justice facility without being asked for more tax dollars in two separate elections? (And it still hasn't been built! Karen Keith has been in office eight years, and we're still waiting.)
Given the size of these bond issues, even a 1% fee would be a huge amount for a small firm. The temptation to corruption would be immense. Think of the money the former Skiatook superintendent got in kickbacks from the janitorial supply company. That would be chump change compared to even a small cut of 1% of a $500 million bond issue.
Oklahoma taxpayers need legislation to require competitive bidding on bonds and to require counties, school districts, and cities -- and their associated Title 60 trusts -- to use the state bond adviser rather than hiring their own favored exclusive firms. Until we get that legislation, we need county officials who will support transparency and fiscal prudence. Josh Turley and Don Newberry, both good men with long years' experience as county employees, will provide that kind of leadership, and I hope Tulsa County voters elect them both.
As for the sheriff's race, I've voiced my concern with the pattern of funding Regalado received in the special election primary and even more concern with the way he responded to the charges. He seems to have settled down and done a reasonable job of setting TCSO on a better course, away from last year's scandals. Rex Berry is way out in left field; we don't need someone like him as sheriff. I'm voting for Regalado.
Three Tulsa City Council seats made it to the general election. As the current City Council has been a complete disaster, backing a massive increase in the permanent sales tax, shutting down Riverside Drive for two years, and imposing their radical left-wing theories of gender and sexuality on the property owners of our city, I don't want any of them to be re-elected.
I was sad to see Jack Henderson work against the interests of District 1 by backing the regressive sales tax for dams in the Arkansas River. Burdening Tulsa's poorest neighborhoods with higher taxes so residents of our wealthier neighborhoods can look at water in the river is unjust, and the Jack Henderson I thought I knew used to understand that. Vanessa Hall-Harper does understand that. She stood against the dam sales tax. While I would never expect a conservative to win District 1, we can at least hope for a city councilor who wants to help her constituents to conserve their own hard-earned funds.
Jeannie Cue, the incumbent in District 2, has been a big disappointment for the aforementioned reasons. But the only thing I've been able to find out about her opponent, Aaron Bisogno, is that he really loves Star Wars. No endorsement in District.
In District 9, Ben Kimbro has the endorsement of the Tulsa Regional Chamber and a bunch of current city councilors. Clearly, we need someone different.
Eric McCray owns a small heat and air company, and he wants to see the reopening of Riverside Drive fast-tracked. He also has some sensible thoughts on the blighted sections of District 9:
Shutting down Riverside for 2 years with no end in sight is unacceptable.
We can make opening Riverside for commuters a priority and fast track the reopening date.
Tulsa commuters should not have to endure multiple, simultaneous road projects which shut down traffic all over the city. We should not see roads shut down with nobody present working on the projects. Crews should focus on a project 24/7 until it is completed and then move to the next. There is a management issue with the roads in Tulsa, and I aim to fix it.
Government assistance programs tend to fund the crime problem in our District. If you don't have to work for your food or housing, you likely have the time and entitlement mentality to commit crime. We have had one of the highest crime spots in all of Tulsa at 61st and Peoria. It is no coincidence that it is located near the swath of government assistance housing. It is not merely a poverty problem--I will work with law enforcement officials, community leaders, and business owners to determine the best way to deter crime from our District while promoting and bringing business to District 9. Let's change the reputation on this side of town.
Someone has posted the video and audio that has been released by city authorities regarding the September 16, 2016, shooting on 36th Street N. in Tulsa. The collection consists of video from three officer dash cams and from the helicopter, audio from the 911 calls, and audio from police dispatch.
Officer Betty Jo Shelby was charged today by District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler with "Manslaughter First Degree, Heat of Passion," a felony violation of 21 O.S. 711, with an alternative charge of "Manslaughter, First Degree, Resisting Criminal Attempt." That link leads to the case file (CF-2016-5138) on the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network, and there you will find the DA's initial filing and the probable cause affidavit from DA office investigator Doug Campbell. Judge James Keeley signed the finding of probable cause and issued a warrant for Officer Shelby's arrest.
The charges read as follows:
21 O.S. 711
BETTY JO SHELBY, on or about 9/16/2016, in Tulsa County, State of Oklahoma and within the jurisdiction of this court, did commit the crime of MANSLAUGHTER - FIRST DEGREE - HEAT OF PASSION, a Felony, The Defendant Betty Jo Shelby, a Tulsa Police Officer encountered Terence Tafford Crutcher in the vicinity of 2300 East 36th Street North in the City and County of Tulsa Oklahoma, and based upon Terence Tafford Crutcher's non-compliant actions and behavior, the Defendant's fear resulted in her unreasonable actions which led her to shooting Terence Tafford Crutcher with a handgun which thereby caused his death.
AND/OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE:21 O.S. 711
BETTY JO SHELBY, on or about 9/16/2016, in Tulsa County, State of Oklahoma and within the jurisdiction of this court, did commit the crime of MANSLAUGHTER - FIRST DEGREE - RESISTING CRIMINAL ATTEMPT, a Felony, the Defendant Betty Jo Shelby, a Tulsa Police Officer encountered Terence Tafford Crutcher in the vicinity of 2300 East 36th Street North in the City and County of Tulsa Oklahoma, and based upon Terence Tafford Crutcher's refusal to comply with her lawful orders, the Defendant unlawfully and unnecessarily shot Terence Tafford Crutcher with her handgun which thereby caused his death.
Philip Holloway, a criminal defense attorney, former prosecutor, and certified peace officer for 27 years, has a CNN op-ed calling our attention to Graham v. Conner, a 1989 U. S. Supreme Court case that establishes the standard for reasonable use of force by law enforcement. Holloway evaluates the known facts in light of that standard, but leaves any conclusions to an investigation.
Tulsa Police Department deactivated their Twitter account, according to an emailed news release at 11:46 am, 2016/09/21:
Due to the overwhelming volume of violent and profane posts on the Tulsa Police Department's twitter account it has been deactivated temporarily. We will be maintaining our presence on Facebook.COMMENT:
I have been impressed by the grace with which our local officials -- particularly Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr, TPD Chief Chuck Jordan, DA Steve Kunzweiler, and City Councilor Jack Henderson -- and local activists -- former Councilor Joe Williams and We the People Oklahoma leader Marq Lewis, among others -- and the grieving Crutcher family have responded to this situation. Prompt and determined pursuit of the 2012 Good Friday shooters earned the city some benefit of the doubt in the community. The willingness of all concerned to speak face to face, rather than talking past each other in the media, may be why Tulsa has been spared the destruction that has happened in other cities.
I am not impressed with local and national voices who are jumping to impose their narrative on the situation before all the facts are known and the process is complete.
For example, Sean Hannity had KRMG's Russell Mills on his radio show via phone on Wednesday. When Hannity tried to push a claim that he had "inside info" from TPD about Crutcher's warrants and criminal history, Mills responded with "just the facts" -- which wasn't as helpful to Hannity's narrative. Mills was being his usual professional self, sticking to substantiated facts. Hannity seemed very annoyed that the guy at the local affiliate wasn't backing his narrative, and he switched away from Russell very quickly to bloviate with a couple of his fellow bloviators. (I stopped listening to Hannity months ago, but on Wednesday I was in the middle of a long drive, scanning the dial for something to hold my attention.)
To my friends who are slamming the DA for filing charges so soon: Steve Kunzweiler is an experienced criminal prosecutor who ran the criminal division of the DA's office before winning the open seat in 2014. He was never involved politically until that election. I trust him to know what elements have to be present to constitute probable cause. If you have doubts, I urge you to click that case link above and read the probable cause affidavit, which appears to take Officer Shelby's claims at face value, and yet finds that the use of force was not reasonable under the circumstances she describes.
You can make enemies in politics, but the actions that make enemies had better also win the loyalty of new friends. Dewey Bartlett Jr managed to alienate every city councilor that ever worked with him and plenty of other people besides. It appears that Tulsans decided that, if you have a choice between two guys who like raising taxes, destroying parkland for development, and infringing on individual liberties, you may as well pick the nicer of the two.
Someone asked if Bartlett Jr's endorsement of Trump was part of the problem. This happened way before Trump.
Bartlett Jr alienated one city council where a majority were initially his supporters. He used local media to trash the council as "bickering" and used his influence over redistricting (his campaign consultant) to separate the councilors from the voters who knew them and in one case to draw a councilor completely out of his district. He got his shiny new council and proceeded to alienate every one of them. Plenty of people have been telling him why they won't support him, but listening isn't his strong suit.
As I wrote last fall, there were no significant policy differences between Bartlett Jr and Bynum IV. Despite efforts by conservative Republicans to reach out to him -- many backed him in the 2013 race -- he gave them nothing in return. Had he the ability to listen, had he some core of conservative principle, Bartlett Jr could have made some space between himself and potential rivals. He could have picked a fight over Vision Tulsa, insisting on leaving the dams off the ballot, or insisting that the dams stand alone, under threat of a veto. He could have rejected any Vision election scheduled for other than the fall election. He could have vetoed the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity to the city housing non-discrimination ordinance.
Bartlett Jr has never given conservatives a reason to get excited about his re-election, so the best he could do was scare conservatives about the alternative.
In 2009, Bartlett Jr won by tying Barack Obama around Democrat nominee Tom Adelson's neck and by smearing independent candidate Mark Perkins as anti-gun. In 2013, Bartlett Jr won the first non-partisan mayoral race by making it partisan, something easy to do against Kathy Taylor, a strongly partisan Democrat.
In 2016, the worst Bartlett Jr could do to Bynum IV was one step removed. Bynum IV won his seat on the City Council as a Republican. He worked for two Republican U. S. Senators. He served on Bartlett Jr's 2009 transition team. So Bartlett Jr attempted to tie Kathy Taylor around Bynum IV's neck. While there was reason to worry that Adelson or Taylor, as Democrat donors, would use the position of mayor as a platform to advance Democrat candidates, the same argument couldn't credibly be made against Bynum IV.
Nevertheless, the Tulsa County Republican Party Executive Committee took the unprecedented step of endorsing Bartlett Jr in a non-partisan race with three registered Republican voters as candidates. Looking back, it's apparent now that party officials must have had access to some private polling showing Bartlett Jr well behind. Now that they've come out to warn Republican voters about RINOs who have support from Democrats, will the Tulsa County GOP Executive Committee get involved in runoffs where recent converts to the GOP are running for the legislature with the backing of Democrats and labor unions?
On Facebook, county GOP Chairman Mike Ford was warning that the election could well be settled in the primary. The same Mr. Ford chided me for choosing to vote for someone other than his preferred leftist in the race, because it might let the other well-heeled leftist win. But if you'll do the math, had everyone who voted for the three minor candidates voted for Bartlett Jr, the 18-point-trampling would have been a mere 12-point shellacking. Tulsans were tired of Dewey.
The complaints about having what amounted to a general election on the primary date, when people aren't expecting to make a final choice, are worth considering, as is the effect on the prolonged I don't have time at the moment to check the law, but I am fairly certain that judicial races, which are also non-partisan and have a primary, will always have a general election with the top two candidates if more than two candidates file for a seat, even if one candidate secures a majority of the vote in the primary. It would be a simple matter to put the same language into the city charter. While we're at it, let's move city elections back to the fall of odd-numbered years, along with county and school elections, so we can give due attention to local issues, without the distraction of federal and state races.
(As long as Dewey Bartlett's lame-duck period will be, it doesn't hold a candle to that suffered by incoming Rogers County Treasurer Jason Carini's wait. After defeating incumbent Cathy Pinkerton Baker in the June 2014 primary, he didn't take office until the beginning of the following fiscal year, July 1, 2015.)
Sign in Chinon, France. Photo by Peter Curb. Used under Creative Commons license.
If you're a conservative, the Chamber of Commerce is not your friend. Not the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, not the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce, not the Tulsa Regional Chamber. If you're a conservative voting in the Republican primary, look to see whom the Chambers are supporting then give your vote some other candidate. If the Chambers are attacking a Republican candidate, she's probably worthy of your enthusiastic backing.
This may seem counter-intuitive. Conservative Republicans know that the free market is the engine of prosperity, and we honor and seek to encourage the entrepreneur who starts and builds a business, creating jobs and providing the products and services we need and want. We oppose taxes and regulations that burden businesses and discourage the creation of jobs. Since Chambers of Commerce claim to be the voice of business, shouldn't conservative Republicans heed their advice?
As with many organizations, the claim to speak for a valued segment of the community doesn't reflect the reality of the situation. Chambers of Commerce came into existence to boost business through business cooperation. But Chambers of Commerce are among the many once-noble American institutions that have been co-opted by self-serving special interests and Leftists who are pursuing social transformation and ever-bigger government. There are plenty of other examples: The American Association of Retired Persons, the National Education Association, the YWCA are just a few that come to mind.
It works like this: An organization offers some valuable service to attract members. The AARP offers discounts and insurance, the NEA's state affiliates offer legal coverage (and require membership in the NEA in order to belong to the state association), the YWCA offers access to swimming pools and exercise classes, the local Chamber offers group insurance coverage for small businesses that might not have enough employees to set up something on their own.
These benefits attract members who will be content as long as the services that induced them to join are provided and who aren't likely to get involved in the governance of the organization. These members get a ballot for board members in the mail, and, after a moment's glance, they toss the ballot in the recycle bin.
The broad-based but uninvolved membership gives the organization a credible claim to be the voice of retirees, of teachers, of women, or of business. The leadership, elected by the much smaller body of involved members, can then use that credibility to push an agenda of which the membership may be completely unaware and which they might reject, were they paying attention.
That agenda may reflect the economic benefit of the most influential members, companies that prefer to profit by means of rent-seeking rather than risk-taking. It may reflect the social agenda of the leftists who pursue careers in the not-for-profit sector. The direct approach to social transformation through elections has had mixed results, but the Left has found considerable success in pushing radical ideas by means of organizations with a history and reputation of being non-ideological, evading the defenses citizens put up against political influence.
The two types of influence can work hand in hand. The non-profit employees at Anycity Metro Chamber, as faithful yacht guests, are happy to push for expensive and useless infrastructure projects that benefit the big construction companies who control Anycity Metro Chamber. The big companies are happy to advance leftist social causes as long as they get their way on economic issues. Sometimes interests coincide: For example, Leftists like illegal immigration because it dilutes the votes of those who support the traditional American approach to society and economics; Big Business likes illegal immigration because it dilutes the cost of labor.
Enough theory. Let's get into some examples of how chambers of commerce from the local to the national level are actively working against the interests of conservatives:
On June 3, 2016, Jeff Dunn, chairman of the board of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, described conservative legislators pursuing legislation on issues like abortion and religious liberty as "nut jobs":
The chairman of the Tulsa Regional Chamber complained Friday that "nut jobs on the periphery" wield too much influence in the Oklahoma Legislature.
"We value our relationship with legislators," Chairman Jeff Dunn said during the chamber's annual recap of the legislative session. "(But) I would submit we need some counseling."
The "nut jobs," Dunn said, are preventing the rest of the lawmakers from being as productive as they might be.
Dunn, president and CEO of Mill Creek Lumber, was upset by what he called a "disappointing" legislative session, particularly in regard to education and long-term reform of the state's finances.
Earlier, in opening remarks, Dunn said legislators are too prone to "go off on tangents" instead of concentrating on state government's core missions.
"When we go off on tangents, we look like North Carolina," Dunn said. "And when we look like North Carolina, it's bad for business."
"North Carolina" is an allusion to the swift action taken by that state's legislature to protect the rights of citizens and business owners after the City of Charlotte passed a draconian ordinance that would have, among other effects, required gyms to allow men claiming to be women to use the same changing rooms as actual women. To Dunn, legislation that defends individual liberty and personal conscience, because it runs against the leftist norms enforced by the news media and the entertainment industry, makes a state look backwards and hurts its business prospects.
Evidently, the leadership and membership of the Tulsa Regional Chamber are just fine with Dunn's insulting and intemperate remarks. He's still listed as Chamber chairman. I find no reports of calls for his resignation or removal, no indication of mass resignations over his remarks. While most Chamber members are likely too busy running their own businesses to pay attention to Chamber politics, Chamber board members share Dunn's culpability if they decline to denounce or distance themselves from his remarks.
Longtime BatesLine readers will recall articles about Tulsa Regional Chamber involvement in wasteful, corporate-welfare-laden sales tax hikes and their attacks on City Councilors (especially conservatives) who sought to subject the Chamber to healthy competition for city contracts, who sought to put the interests of city residents ahead of suburban developers, who sought to ensure that federal community development funds actually went to help Tulsa's neediest neighborhoods. What's new is the Chamber's apparent hostility to conservative concerns about the use of government to impose leftist social views.
In an earlier entry, I mentioned the Tulsa Regional Chamber's diversity initiative, with its surveys that convey the message that sexual orientation and gender identity are inborn, immutable characteristics on par with race and ethnicity, despite all scientific evidence to the contrary. These surveys measure a company's commitment to diversity by whether they give domestic partner benefits, sponsor or participate in gay pride parades, and prioritize giving contracts to LGBT-owned businesses. Why would any conservative remain on the board of an organization that funds this kind of propaganda?
Earlier this year, OCPA President Jonathan Small summed up the Tulsa Regional Chamber as a left-wing echo chamber:
Remember the Tulsa Regional Chamber? Its leadership in 2014 participated in a failed attempt to support U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, who was trying to prevent Republicans from gaining the majority in the U.S. Senate. Imagine if some of the leadership of the Tulsa Regional Chamber had succeeded. Sen. Harry Reid would still be the Senate majority leader. Majority Leader Reid likely would be using the "nuclear option" to ramrod through an extremely left-of-center Supreme Court justice nomination to replace Justice Antonin Scalia.
Once again the Tulsa Regional Chamber is in lock-step with the Obama administration. Obama's administration tried to stifle a very popular school choice program in Louisiana and Washington, D.C. The Tulsa Regional Chamber lobbied against efforts to implement ESAs and is now an accomplice in the death of two bills that would have helped the most vulnerable in Oklahoma.
In fairness, the Tulsa Regional Chamber is consistent. The chamber parrots the funding requests of state agencies, proffers the Medicaid expansion as one of the best economic deals ever offered the state and tries to kill tax relief for all while working for special interest tax breaks. The chamber even tried to cripple the oil and gas industry with exorbitantly high taxes just before the downturn.
Some who have left the Tulsa Regional Chamber or refuse to join will tell you that's because it has become an echo chamber for policies that benefit the growth of big government, with more and more special interests of government involved in the chamber's processes.
Sadly, thousands of Oklahoma's most vulnerable children will lose in part because of the lack of intellectual diversity in the Tulsa Regional Chamber.
In another article, OCPA looked at the presence on the Tulsa and Oklahoma City chamber membership rolls -- and detected a pattern that could explain their support for higher taxes:
In recent years chambers of commerce in this state have done yeoman's work in fighting for important policies such as Right to Work, workers' compensation reform, and lawsuit reform. However, many of these same chambers also lobby strenuously for bigger government, including increased funding for medical welfare programs and for the state's bottomless-pit education monopoly. These chambers lobby against prudent fiscal measures, such as one (not exactly draconian) proposal which would limit the annual growth of state government spending to 9.5 percent. Why is this?
Part of the answer can be found by examining the chambers' membership rosters. In addition to scads of nonprofit organizations (which may or may not receive taxpayer money), one discovers more than a few blatant "'tax eater' entities," to borrow Stephen Moore's phrase.
As for the State Chamber of Commerce, they joined with the Tulsa, Oklahoma City chambers and the U. S. Chamber in a lawsuit to block implementation of employment-related provisions of HB 1804, provisions that would have required Oklahoma employers to verify the employment eligibility of the people they hired. In other words, the Chambers at all levels worked to take the teeth out of the law, to disarm the provisions that made it an effective deterrent to illegal immigration.
The State Chamber also pushed hard for Obamacare Medicaid expansion (euphemistically called "rebalancing" this year) and Common Core. The State Chamber targeted a strongly pro-business conservative Republican, State Sen. Josh Brecheen, for defeat because he supported Common Core repeal and opposed a special tax cut for energy producers, preferring instead to give general tax relief to the state's taxpayers.
Back in 2007, economist Stephen Moore wrote:
In Oklahoma the state chamber filed a petition with the state Supreme Court to block eminent domain reform, and vowed to fight a taxpayer-led movement to enact a Colorado-style [taxpayer bill of rights].
This transcript of a July 2012 State Chamber meeting in Tahlequah quotes the chamber's lobbyist, Chad Warmington, saying, "the legislature spends a lot of time talking about things that just don't matter - I mean, they want to talk about tax cuts and all that stuff."
Also in 2012, then-State Rep. David Dank bemoaned the role "pro-business" lobbyists played in preserving special interest tax credits at the expense of tax relief for all Oklahomans (hat tip to OCPA's Brandon Dutcher):
Sadly, those same lobbyists who secured sweetheart deals for the beneficiaries of tax credits managed to kill most efforts to reform or repeal them during the 2012 session. We did manage to phase out two of the most abused and wasteful tax credits, but dozens of others are being reinstated in July.
In short, the special interests won and the people lost. A primary reason Oklahoma taxpayers will see no income tax relief next year is that a few favored industries will continue to cash in on the public treasury through a still-broken tax credit system.
My rule of thumb is to look for the Chamber label -- who has endorsements and money from Chamber-connected PACs and dark-money groups -- and to vote for someone else. Like many other institutions that started out with nobler purposes, Chambers of Commerce have become a partnership of Leftists who have co-opted the organizations in support of their agenda of bigger, more intrusive government and social transformation and businesses who use the Chambers to put the "pro-business, pro-growth" stamp on measures that transfer taxpayer dollars to their pockets.
The problem is not limited to Oklahoma. Chambers of Commerce in other states have lobbied against stricter immigration enforcement, for corporate welfare and eminent domain abuse, and against protections for citizens who believe that there are important distinctions to be drawn between a natural, normal marriage and a "same-sex marriage" and between a real woman and a "transwoman." Here's a sampling of news stories and conservative commentary documenting the hostility of Chambers of Commerce to conservative causes:
Luke Sherman for Tulsa County Sheriff has released surveillance video that they claim shows Aaron Brewer, campaign manager for recently elected Sheriff Vic Regalado, blocking the visibility of Sherman's yard signs by placing other signs before and behind them.
This is an old, petty tactic. It's hard to believe that a campaign manager would stoop to this instead of attending to more pressing responsibilities. If true, it would show a surprising degree of desperation.
Surveillance video obtained by the Luke Sherman for Sheriff campaign definitively shows Regalado Campaign Manager, Aaron Brewer, sabotaging Luke Sherman signs in Tulsa County. A Sherman volunteer installed the surveillance camera out of his frustration from seeing Sherman signs defaced across Tulsa County.
"We knew someone was sneaking around blocking and damaging our signs. I just didn't want to believe Regalado's campaign would stoop to that level," Luke Sherman says. "But the camera doesn't lie. That is unquestionably Aaron Brewer deliberately blocking my signs with signs from other Republican campaigns he's not even affiliated with. He brazenly used signs from Jim Bridenstine and other Republican candidates, throwing them under the bus, while trying to deceive voters into thinking the Regalado campaign had nothing to do with it."...
Sherman is happy to provide any supporting video and pictures of the surveillance which inextricably confirms Regalado's Campaign Manager, Aaron Brewer, is the person seen in the attached videos.
As of noon Monday, Brewer had not responded to a Facebook message sent at 1:17 a.m. requesting comment.
Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel has, in his personal capacity, endorsed Donald Newberry for Tulsa County Court Clerk and Josh Turley for Tulsa County Commissioner District 2.
The Court Clerk manages court records and processes marriage licenses. Sally Howe Smith, the longtime incumbent, is not seeking re-election. Yazel is recommending Donald Newberry to replace her:
Don is the most qualified candidate for Tulsa County Court Clerk. He has worked in the Tulsa Assessor's office for the past six years, serving Tulsa County citizens with loyalty and professionalism. During this time Don successfully completed his MBA then and a Masters in Indian Law at Tulsa University.
Don currently manages our Title Research Department and his professionalism has been nothing but exemplary. His ingenuity and business mind combined with his management skills and education is exactly what this County needs in an elected official. While I am sad to lose such a valuable employee, I applaud Don's desire to see local government continue to move towards a system of honesty, transparency and customer service.
The incumbent District 2 County Commissioner is Democrat Karen Keith, who was first elected in 2008 and was re-elected without opposition in 2012. Two candidates are competing for the Republican nomination and the opportunity to run against Keith in November. Yazel has endorsed Josh Turley:
Tulsa County is on the brink of change. As Tulsa County Assessor I am endorsing Josh Turley for Tulsa County Commissioner District 2.
We need real change at the county commissioner level. We need a leader who will stand up for what is right. A leader who will address the needs of our citizens. A leader that will open the Tulsa County budget and financials for all citizens to see. A leader who will answer your phone call. It is time for change, it is time for real leadership. It is time to back Josh Turley for Tulsa County Commissioner.
Turley is a 24-year veteran of the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, serving as a crime scene investigator and then creating the first risk management program for TCSO, which succeeded in reducing car accidents involving deputies and tort claim payouts.
Yazel's mention of the budget is important, and it's why I'm inclined to trust Yazel's guidance in filling these positions. All eight elected county officials (three commissioners, assessor, clerk, court clerk, sheriff, treasurer) serve on the budget board. Yazel has been pushing for years to account for all sources of funding in the county budget process -- not just the revenues generated by the general fund property tax millage, but revenues generated by services, earmarked revenues, and carryover funds. Recognizing that there are different "colors" of money (legal restrictions on how various funds can be spent), if officials and the public have the whole revenue picture, the budget can be more efficiently allocated. If an office or taxing entity already has a significant amount of money from restricted funds and unrestricted carryover to fund its activities, it won't need as much from the general fund, leaving more money to fund projects and programs without asking taxpayers for higher sales taxes or property taxes.
On his website, Turley writes:
I am running for commissioner because I have seen the waste. I have experienced the failures of privatization of the jail. I have seen the dilapidated county buildings. I have watched our overflowing juvenile facility get worse. I have seen our outdated county vehicles. I have watched government fail to address our old levee. I have watched as year after year we struggle to open our pools. I believe we are not spending your money appropriately.
Turley also notes that, despite funding for the juvenile justice center in two separate sales tax packages, the county has yet to break ground on this much-needed facility.
On the strength of Ken Yazel's recommendation, I plan to join him in voting for Donald Newberry and Josh Turley in Tuesday's primary.
Conservative activist leader Ronda Vuillemont Smith plans to vote for Newberry but is undecided in the County Commission race:
I am undecided on this race and may just flip a coin to determine who to vote for. I believe either one will serve us well bringing new ideas and vision for Tulsa county. One the one hand, Turley has worked in county government and is familiar with procedure and protocol while having an understanding of the needs of Tulsa County. On the other hand I have known Grable for a number of years and have spent time listening to his thoughts and ideas and I believe he has a future in politics. His experience in having worked at the state capitol would be beneficial to the office of County Commissioner. Full disclosure: I have donated to Grable's campaign.
On Tuesday, June 28, 2016, Republican voters in Tulsa County will decide which of two candidates will be our next County Clerk. The incumbent is not running for re-election, and only two Republicans filed for the seat: Michael Willis and Nancy Rothman.
Online access to public records is a big deal to me. Part of what has enabled me to research and write about public matters for the last 13 years is the ready availability of information online. I have a job, and I have a family, and if I had to burn vacation hours to go to City Hall or the County Courthouse during normal office hours to do my research, it wouldn't happen very often.
When I researched my story on Tulsa's lost Near Northside neighborhood, the land ownership angle was important enough that I took time off work and went to the courthouse during normal business hours, passing through the metal detectors and having my wallet x-rayed, so that I could sit at one of the public access terminals in the county clerk's office. Plat maps were available only as pages in a book -- a shame since they contain fascinating historical information like the locations of streetcar tracks and streets that were later wiped out by urban renewal and expressway construction.
It doesn't have to be that way. When, out of curiosity, I wanted to find the address of a Florida house my in-laws owned as an investment for a few years in the 1970s, it took about 15 minutes of online research before I had a digital image of the deed on my computer screen.
For 32 years, the Tulsa County Clerk's office has been ruled by a single dynasty: Joan Hastings served from 1985-2001. Her deputy, Earlene Wilson, served as county clerk from 2001-2013, and Wilson's deputy, Pat Key, was elected in 2012, but Key has opted not to run for re-election. Her deputy, Nancy Rothman, is running for the office.
While county clerks across the country have made land records and documents readily available online, the Tulsa County Clerk's office, under the Hastings-Wilson-Key-Rothman dynasty, has resisted the online public records revolution.
There have been a few minor improvements recently. You still have to pay for online access to county clerk land records, but as of last September you no longer have to get the permission of the County Commission to set up an account. The mainframe-based LRMIS system for assessor and treasurer records is now available for free, but Assessor Ken Yazel has long provided an easy-to-use website to access the same information.
Not only have Rothman and her dynastic predecessors failed to serve the public's access to public records, Nancy Rothman's record of disastrous self-management makes it clear that she has no business managing public funds or public assets of any sort.
We need a change. We need a county clerk with the right vision -- facilitating public access to public records -- and the skill set to make it happen. That's why I'm supporting Michael Willis. Willis has 10 years experience working in government and a master's degree in public administration. He has served as an aide to Mayor Bill LaFortune and most recently as a chief deputy to the County Commission. He has overseen significant improvements to the Tulsa County website, streamlining access to public information. Willis supports the expansion of free online access to public documents, including land records.
Just as important, Willis is a devoted husband and father, a decent, principled human being without a whiff of scandal in his life.
The same cannot be said about Nancy Rothman, who lost custody of her two sons and had to pay her ex-husband's attorney's fees because of behavior that the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals called "reprehensible" in accusing her ex-husband of molesting one of his sons, seeking to alienate their sons from their father, and plotting to plant child pornography in her ex-husband's apartment. At the same time, she appears to have squandered a generous divorce settlement, remortgaging her sprawling midtown mansion for ever greater amounts until she declared bankruptcy in 2006. To my knowledge, Rothman has never expressed remorse for her actions. More ought to be said about this woman who, despite her nefarious behavior, continues to be appointed to positions of public trust by people who should have better judgment, and I intend to say more in a separate entry.
Even if his opponent were a decent, upstanding citizen, Michael Willis's experience, knowledge, and character would still make Willis the best choice for Tulsa County Clerk, and I urge you to join me in voting for Willis on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.
Back last November and again in April during filing for candidates for city offices, I begged for a principled conservative to throw his hat in the ring for Mayor of Tulsa, so we wouldn't be left with a Hobson's choice between Tweedledee Jr and Tweedledum IV, both of whom have embraced a failed understanding of what makes for a livable, lovable city. After two days of filing, the only alternatives were two perennial candidates with problems of their own.
On the final day of filing, Tom McCay answered the call, and he has my support and my vote to become Mayor of Tulsa.
McCay's reason for getting into the race: "I kept waiting for someone in office to represent me, my family and my neighbors. When I realized that wasn't going to happen, I became that someone." He notes, "There is no real difference between GT Bynum & Dewey Bartlett, who have virtually identical platforms."
Tom McCay and his wife, Lisa, have been married for 30 years, and they have five children -- two daughters who are working as professionals, a son in college at OSU, and two more daughters still at home. McCay is a designer and creator of jewelry. Many years ago he founded and directed Tulsa's first improvisational comedy group, the Obnoxious Party Guests. The McCays are active members of Christ the King Parish (Catholic). The McCays live near 31st and Mingo, and if Tom is elected, he would be the first mayor of Tulsa in 28 years who doesn't live in the Midtown Money Belt.
McCay's vision of city government is one that focuses on its core mission, while reducing the obstacles to the formation and growth of small business. One of his ideas is to lengthen the terms of the city licenses and permits so that small businesses don't have to deal with the direct and indirect costs of licenses and permits as often. The overall fiscal impact to the city is small, but it can make a big difference to an individual business.
It's fair to say that McCay, like most Tulsans, isn't intimately familiar with the nuts and bolts of city government. That's OK. Since the switch to a mayor-council form of government in 1990, every mayor has handed off the day-to-day responsibilities for city government functions to a city manager under various titles -- Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Operating Officer, to name a couple. (Before 1990, the functions of city government fell to the separately elected commissioners for water and sewer, streets and public property, police and fire, and finance.)
The important thing is to have a mayor with the right vision and guiding principles. The leading candidates are both under the misapprehension that a city's growth and prosperity depends on an activist government commissioning the right big projects and offering the right incentives to lure big companies to town. Tom McCay is a conservative who believes in American exceptionalism and free-market capitalism. He understands that government's role in fostering prosperity consists in performing its basic functions and getting out of the way of individual creativity.
Tom McCay wisely opposed the ill-considered Vision Tulsa tax increase, while the two Money Belt candidates both supported it.
Tweedledee IV and Tweedledum Jr are both enthusiastic supporters of using city government force to impose acceptance of the philosophy and mores of the Sexual Revolution, following the oppressive examples of Charlotte and Houston. McCay would allow Tulsans the freedom to exercise their own judgment in deciding whether to make a distinction between actual women and men who claim to be women, between natural marriages grounded in the biological facts of life and same-sex pseudogamy that seeks the honor due to marriage, the freedom to decide how to handle these challenging issues in the context of their families, churches, schools, civic organizations, and businesses.
I am grateful to Tom McCay and his family for leaving their comfort zone and running for office, because it means we have the opportunity on June 28 to cast our vote, not for the lesser of two evils, but for an honorable Christian gentleman who shares our values and our philosophy of government.
On Friday, March 20, 2016, 1170 KFAQ hosted a debate between the two most prominent of the five candidates for Tulsa mayor: Incumbent Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett, Jr., and City Councilor G. T. Bynum, IV. KFAQ morning host Pat Campbell moderated the hour-long, uninterrupted debate.
If you'd prefer to listen, here's a link to audio of the KFAQ 2016 mayoral debate.
If you'd prefer to read, here's a partial transcript of the KFAQ 2016 mayoral debate, with more to come.
I've only had time to read the transcript. It has not budged my earlier conclusion: Feh. Bartlett makes the bizarre claim that putting the city's checkbook online (a open-records practice to encourage financial accountability, common across the nation) would expose the city to hackers. Bynum bemoans the lack of leadership from Bartlett, but he seems to have passed up the opportunity to rally his fellow councilors to pass many of the measures he says he would champion as mayor (implementing the KPMG recommendations, for example) in favor of raising taxes to build dams in the river and using government force to impose his leftist views of sexuality on Tulsa citizens.
I've been hearing good things about Tom McCay, a first-time candidate, a libertarian in political philosophy with a background in improvisational comedy. He's likely to have my vote in the primary.
BUMPED and UPDATED 2016/04/13: As of the end of the second day of filing, no conservatives have filed to run for Mayor of Tulsa. Previously announced candidates Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr and Councilor G. T. Bynum IV have been joined by perennial candidates Paul Tay and Lawrence Kirkpatrick. Filing closes at 5 p.m. today, Wednesday, April 13, 2016. Originally published 2016/04/11.
Monday began the three-day filing period for the City of Tulsa 2016 elections. All nine councilors, the mayor, and the auditor are up for election this year. Anyone who wishes to compete must file a notarized declaration of candidacy along with a $50 certified check with the Tulsa County Election Board by 5 p.m., Wednesday, April 13, 2016.
The three-day filing period for county, state, and federal offices begins at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, and ends at 5 p.m., Friday, April 15, 2016. County candidates file at their respective county election boards; state and federal candidates file at the Oklahoma State Election Board in the basement of the State Capitol.
At the moment, I know of only two candidates for mayor -- Tweedledee Jr. and Tweedledum IV -- and only one candidate who is planning to challenge an incumbent councilor -- Jim Rice has announced his intention to challenge David Patrick in District 3 (eastern north Tulsa).
Tulsa needs better choices. (I won't say "deserves better"; as Mencken wrote, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.")
If these are our choices, I'll be sitting this election out, as I did in 2013. Neither candidate is a conservative. G. T. Bynum has been a leading proponent of leftist social policies at City Hall; Bartlett has offered no resistance to those policies. Both men are besotted with the expensively foolish idea that "water in the river" is the key to Tulsa's future prosperity. Bartlett endorsed the explicit corporate welfare of Vision2 Proposition 1; both endorsed Proposition 2, which was a bad financial deal for the City of Tulsa.
Neither have been advocates for sound urban design and land-use policy. Bartlett has promoted the idea of converting 12 acres of park land on the river to a massive parking lot surrounding a big-box store; when the Council voted on the Comprehensive Plan changes to enable the development, Bynum recused himself. Both are residents of Tulsa's Money Belt, the tiny ultra-wealthy section of town with an insular mindset that has been home to almost every mayor of Tulsa.
Add to that assessment some more recent information: The mayor and the entire council colluded in last week's logrolled Vision ballot, which may have satisfied the letter of Oklahoma's constitutional single-subject rule, but it surely violated the spirit of the provision that was designed to keep us from having to vote for something we don't want to get something we want. If you want a chance at keeping the pork out of future tax packages, you need councilors who share your perspective.
National news calls our attention to another big issue on the horizon. Our current mayor and council have already taken incremental steps toward the sort of "sexual orientation and gender identity" (SOGI) ordinance that Houston's council approved (and the voters overturned) and that Charlotte's council passed (and the state legislature voided).
In 2010, G. T. Bynum led the effort to add those classifications to the city's employer non-discrimination policy, which passed 6-3. Early in 2015, the Tulsa City Council voted 8-0 (Councilor Dodson was absent) to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's housing non-discrimination ordinance. Bartlett signed both ordinances without hesitation. I expect that the next incremental step will be the sort of broad-based SOGI ordinance as Houston and Charlotte, a law that authorizes the city to fine a florist for refusing to work a same-sex "wedding" or to shut down a gym for refusing to allow men who claim to be women access to the girls' locker room. Right now there are no City of Tulsa elected officials who would be willing to stand up against such an ordinance.
If you are a fiscally conservative Tulsan, if you believe that tax dollars should be spent on necessities, not on fanciful projects with dubious claims to economic development, if you believe officials should have investigated spiraling costs before asking for a permanent tax increase, if you have a problem with handing a non-City organization a big stack of money without accountability, you have no representation at City Hall.
If you are a socially conservative Tulsan, if you believe that Tulsans should have the freedom to decide to what extent a person's sexual behavior and self-presentation should be a factor, if you believe that Tulsa businesses and organizations should have the freedom to decide how to accommodate the restroom needs of their clients, without Big Brother Government threatening them with fines and other penalties, you have no representation at City Hall. Indeed, the current mayor and councilors regard us with contempt and dismiss our views as superstitious, old-fashioned, and hateful, even though our views were the commonplace, common-sense views across nearly every religion, nearly every civilization for millennia, and only very recently displaced (with the help of leftists who run our education and entertainment industries) by the fanatical dogmas of the Sexual Revolution.
Conservative Tulsans should insist upon conservatives representing them in city government.
Someone will object that potholes aren't Republican or Democrat, but I'm talking about political philosophy, not party affiliation. Conservative concepts work because they're aligned with the realities of human nature. Leftist notions fail because they try to wish away those realities. A city governed in accordance with conservative principles will grow and prosper. What happens when you govern a city in accordance with leftist ideals? See Detroit.
I am praying that solidly conservative candidates will step forward to run for city office. I hope you'll join with me in prayer, that you'll be open to the possibility of running, and that you'll think through your list of friends and consider whom you might encourage to run.
Time to clean house.
Save Helmerich Park posted the following comment from R. Dobie Langenkamp, former Director of the National Energy Law and Policy Institute and Chapman Distinguished Professor of Energy Law at the University of Tulsa Law School, about the business flaws of the Tulsa Public Facilities Authority effort (with Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr's enthusiastic approval) to sell 9 acres of Helmerich Park for a commercial development, reciting some of the history of the property and analyzing the price against the market value of land near major intersections. Even if you don't have a problem with selling off riverfront parkland, you ought to have a problem with the city selling a valuable piece of property at a major intersection without competitive bidding.
Dear Friends of Helmerich Park.
Craig Immel, Terry Young, Herb Beattie, and Greg Bledsoe have spelled out the legal and policy flaws regarding the Helmerich Park decision. Let's look at the deal from a business standpoint. Do so and you will agree with me that it is absurd if not suspect.
The entire 60-plus acres was mortgaged over 30 years ago to the First National Bank for $12.5 million. Surely its appraisal at that time substantially exceeded that amount. The Bank foreclosed on it and Walt Helmerich arranged for the purchase for the City from the bank (he was a member of the board) for $4.5 million. He raised $2.5 million from public spirited friends (Who attended a breakfast at the Tulsa Club for $800 each) and Roger Randle as Mayor came up with the remaining $2.5 million announcing that the land would be used for a park to be exceeded in size only by Mohawk.
The developer - possibly using REI as a bait and switch - has proposed to buy the key nine (9) acres - the "cream" as it were - for $895,000 ($1.465 million less a $570,000 credit to the developer in return for on-site infrastructure improvements). This amounts to less than $2.50 per square foot. Ask any of your realty friends what a corner on two major thoroughfares is worth these days. The numbers I get are from $10 and up. The entire 60-acre parcel was worth about $5.00 a foot when the First National Bank took the $12.5 million mortgage on it 30 years ago. This corner lot should be appraised before further action. such an appraisal would indicate a value of 5 million or more (400,000 sq ft x $10).
This option to the developer was given for virtually nothing ($5,000, refundable consideration) and has just been extended until August for exercise without additional consideration.
Initially, Tulsa was told the parcel sought would be for REI alone - after Clay Bird has finished his no competition sweetheart deal - it was for a full 9 acres for an entire shopping center not specifically requiring the involvement of REI.
Why are Dewey and Clay Bird giving this park parcel away without an appraisal or a public bidding procedure?
Why is Dewey hell bent on seeing that this particular Dallas developer gets this park property for a song?
Grand Juries have been impaneled for less.
R. Dobie Langenkamp
Save Helmerich Park adds this note: "The former Luby's parcel diagonally across the intersection from this corner of Helmerich Park - 2.48 acres/108,217 square feet - has a 2016 value of $3.695 million. If my math is correct, that is over $34.00 per square foot."
Remember, Mayor Bartlett Jr supports this deal, and not one member of the City Council opposed changing the comprehensive plan to facilitate the deal. (G. T. Bynum IV recused himself.) If this bugs you, as it should, you have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to file to run against these mis-representatives.
Most of the projects in Vision Tulsa Prop 3 amount to "Here, have a pile of money." Instead of building a specific facility that will belong to the City of Tulsa or updating existing city-owned facilities, the City will write a check to some other institution to do with as they see fit. It makes accountability a challenge to say the least.
Since the first Third Penny tax was approved in 1980, there has been a City of Tulsa Sales Tax Overview Committee (STOC) to oversee spending of the current Third Penny program. STOC has members from each of the nine council districts and meets monthly determine that the money is only being spent on authorized projects, which are itemized in an ordinance.
For example, here's a project from that 1980 Third Penny, specified in Title 43-A, Tulsa Revised Ordinances:
4-Lane 31st from Memorial to Mingo, with modification of the Intersection of 31st and Memorial: $8,255,000.00
Compare that to this line from Title 43-K, which sets out the spending policy for the newly passed Vision Tulsa tax hike:
Tulsa Fairgrounds: $30,000,000.00
How do you ensure that money is spent as intended when so little intent is indicated?
The good news: There are members of the STOC who want to be sure that our tax dollars are spent in accordance with promises made before the election.
More good news: STOC members have concerns about certain (as yet unnamed) projects.
The bad news: STOC members have no control over the contracting process. Their suggestions of contract terms to require reporting and transparency before receiving funds are just that -- suggestions.
(Also, the STOC doesn't even have oversight on the permanent taxes approved by Props 1 and 2.)
Some more bad news: Rather than raising these concerns in a timely manner, when the information might have influenced voters to reject the package and demand specific terms and conditions be written into the ordinance, they waited until the voters had no leverage to influence how the contracts will be written.
Here is the email that Ashley Webb, chairman of the STOC, sent on Wednesday, April 6, 2016, the day after the Vision Tulsa sales tax election, discussing concerns about oversight and accountability with these projects. (Emphasis added. )
Congratulations on the successful passage of the three Vision extension proposals. Now that the issue is finally ripe, I wanted to reach out and update the Council on the STOC's efforts to date and our concerns going forward regarding, specifically, oversight of the proposals in the Economic Development portion of the package (which are the only ones that will fall under the oversight purview of the STOC).
First, STOC members Karen O'Brien and Brad Colvard met with Mike Kier, Gary Hamer, and myself on February 11, 2016, to address preliminary issues relative to the Economic Development projects. Primarily, the STOC and Mr. Kier addressed/discussed one principal issue at that meeting: mandatory reporting requirements (and contractual language requiring the same) for all non-City of Tulsa controlled entities receiving funds under the Vision 2025 Economic Development package.
To that end, we discussed the insertion of contractual language into the contracts with those entities requiring at least quarterly in-person reporting to the main STOC monthly meetings and monthly written reports to our STOC VISION subcommittee. Additionally, we discussed the necessity of tying those reporting requirements to those entities' ability to receive disbursements; otherwise, there would be no mechanism through which their compliance could be enforced. By far, this is the most important issue that we believe must be addressed up front before these projects move forward.
Secondly, we discussed the logistics of the STOC's oversight and how we might incorporate these new projects into our existing oversight structure, etc. From that, we created an additional STOC VISION subcommittee, our first meeting of which was held last Tuesday on March 29, 2016. Our next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday April 19. 2016 at 4:00 p.m. at the First Baptist Café at 4th and Cincinatti (nice chairs, complementary beverages - thank you to FBT!). I have copied on this communication those STOC members who were in attendance at that meeting last week.
Finally, I know that Mr. Kier and others had an informal meeting last Tuesday evening to discuss, I'm sure, a multitude of issues that might need to be addressed should the VISION proposals pass. Now that we know those proposals have been approved, though, the STOC would like to ensure that the necessary language requiring the mandatory reporting be included in all relevant contracts, and we (the STOC) are willing to provide a liaison for any such meetings in the future to guarantee the oversight requirements needed will not be overlooked. As currently constructed, the STOC has several licensed attorneys and experienced professionals that are willing to be available so that we have boots on the ground, so to speak, making sure the issue is addressed. Obviously, through our STOC VISION subcommittee, the STOC will continue to streamline our approach so that we can accommodate the oversight of this panoply of projects that will soon be coming down the pike.
As I know we still have some time to line all of these issues out, I will not at this time provide a list of the Economic Development projects that we are most concerned about; however, I would expect we will address those issues with the Council following our April 19th subcommittee meeting. In the meantime, if we can be of service to those identifying and addressing, in particular, issues relative to the oversight of these projects, please do not hesitate to let us know. As stated, we will gladly provide an STOC representative to be present at any such meetings, be them formal or not.
Thank you all for your continued investment in Tulsa's future.
Chair, COT STOC
I've observed this over and over again for years, but it's still disheartening to see how easily many Tulsans yield what little political leverage they possess in exchange for empty promises of future influence. They have been brainwashed to think that if they play nice and don't say anything that makes the powers-that-be look bad, at some point in the future the powers-that-be may actually take their concerns seriously. This passivity is especially distressing when the passive Tulsans hold positions that grant them more than the typical share of visibility and political power.
(I heard the same passivity even among voters, many of whom told me that they didn't want to build the dams, but they felt they had to vote yes in order to get their favorite thing funded. They seemed mystified at the thought that they could say no and thus force the Council to rework the package, excluding the dams.)
To the STOCers: I wish you well in your quest for transparency and oversight. It's really rather sweet that you think city officials will care about your opinion, now that they have what they want. Your mistake here is to believe that it matters how the money transferred to non-City entities is spent. That money, typically not enough to do anything useful, has already served its purpose, which was to purchase the support of certain constituencies for the low-water dams. Now that the dams have been funded, the non-City entities could hold a bonfire to burn all their Vision Tulsa cash and the Mayor and City Council would not care.
UPDATE: STOC member Steven Roemerman points out that he raised these concerns via Twitter back in January:
It isn't clear to me how the #Tulsa STOC is supposed to effectively oversee money given to Tulsa County in the new #vision tax #visiontulsa 11:07 AM - 27 Jan 2016
What mechanism will we have to force the County to be transparent? Asking nicely? Harsh language? Wishful thinking? #visiontulsa #vision
11:09 AM - 27 Jan 2016
Will they promise to send representatives to STOC sub committee meetings? How will #Tulsa handle County cost overages and deadline slippage?
11:11 AM - 27 Jan 2016
Here are my recommended votes in the Tulsa County special election on April 5, 2016, for the unexpired term for Tulsa County Sheriff and county and municipal sales tax propositions. Links lead to more detailed information or earlier blog entries. (This entry may change as I decide to add more detail or discuss additional races. The entry is post-dated to keep it at the top.)
Print them, take it along to the polls, and pass it along to your friends, but please read the detail and click the links below.
- March 30, 2016: Michael Bates of Citizens for a Better Vision on Vision Tulsa package
- March 21, 2016: George McFarlin of Citizens for a Better Vision on Vision Tulsa package
- March 9, 2016: Michael Bates and George McFarlin of Citizens for a Better Vision on Vision Tulsa package
And now here are my recommendations and rationale for each ballot item.
Tulsa County Sheriff, unexpired term: Republican Vic Regalado.
- This election will keep the sheriff's seat warm until the November election.
- I have some serious concerns about the appearance that straw donors were used to fund Regalado's primary campaign and about his choice to respond to those concerns by playing the race card.
- The Democrat nominee, Rex Berry, is a far-left, anti-gun rights, pro-abortion extremist who compares Tea Party Republicans to Saudi Arabian theocrats.
- Vote for Regalado today, support a better conservative candidate in the June primary for the full four-year term.
Sales tax propositions: General advice
- The sales taxes on the ballot are intended to replace the Vision 2025 0.6 cent sales tax which doesn't expire until December 31, 2016.
- If there's something in a package that you think is foolish or wasteful, if the rate is too high or the duration of the tax is too long for your liking (or permanent) vote NO, and then tell your elected officials why.
- Commissioners, councilors, and mayors will have plenty of time to propose better packages and bring them to a vote on the June primary, August runoff, or November general election ballots.
Tulsa County sales tax: NO.
- This is a 0.05%, 15-year sales tax.
- While most of the projects on Tulsa County's tentative list seem modest and reasonable, the list is not set in stone, and the tax is for 15 years with plans to borrow against future revenues.
- A tax no more than 5 years in duration, with a fixed set of basic infrastructure projects, and no advance revenue bond funding, would be worth considering, but this plan does not meet those criteria.
City of Tulsa, Prop. 1: NO.
- This is a permanent increase in the city's sales tax rate, earmarked to fund police, fire, and 911. The rate starts 0.16% and after July 1, 2021, permanently increases to 0.26%.
- This tax doesn't address the causes of runaway increases in police and fire department spending. The police and fire budget consumes all of the permanent 2% sales tax for operations, plus a little. (107% in Fiscal Year 2014).
- According to a 2014 report, "City of Tulsa Fiscal Constraints", "Since 1980, Police and Fire operating budgets have increased by 470%. Higher operating budgets have not translated into additional 'boots on the ground,' however. The number of Police and Fire personnel has only increased by 4% over that 34-year span."
- The police and fire budget, adjusted for inflation has doubled since 1980. We need an investigation and explanation for this dramatic increase in cost without a corresponding increase in service.
- Shrugging our shoulders and throwing more money at the problem only means a future sales tax increase a few years down the road.
- A temporary tax to tide us over while we figure out the causes of our fiscal hemorrhage might be acceptable, but not a permanent increase is not.
City of Tulsa, Prop. 2: NO.
- This is a permanent increase in the city's sales tax rate by 0.085 cents on the dollar, earmarked to fund street maintenance and public transit.
- While many projects have been informally promised for this permanent tax, for some reason, none of them were written into the Brown Ordinance that controls spending for the tax.
- Nor does the ordinance dictate how the money will be split between street maintenance, public transit operations, and public transit rolling stock and infrastructure.
- In the age of Uber and Lyft, it seems backwards-thinking to commit a permanent tax to an old-fashioned bus system with fixed routes, long waits, limited hours of operation, one-size-fits-all vehicles, and unionized public employees as drivers. A flexible, data-driven, private-sector approach could meet the public transit needs of Tulsa citizens with lower cost and greater comfort and convenience.
- A temporary tax, targeted to specific spending plans, and a plan to research innovative new approaches to transit would be worth voting for; this vaguely defined permanent tax is not.
City of Tulsa, Prop. 3: NO. This is the dam tax package.
- 15-year increase in the city's sales tax rate by 0.305 cents on the dollar for 4.5 years, up by a half-penny to 0.805 cents for 4 years, and back down to 0.305 cents for 6.5 more years.
- That half-penny bump for four years is just enough to pay for the low-water dams, and it means that we can't renew our traditional Third Penny sales tax for streets and other basic infrastructure when it expires in 2021 without raising the overall tax rate.
- $127 million will be spent on low-water dams in the Arkansas River, with the south Tulsa dam contingent on some vague sort of agreement with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation (which has not offered or committed any financial support) and the City of Jenks (the involvement of which is contingent on Tuesday's proposition in Jenks).
- Dams will disrupt habitat for the endangered bald eagle and other species.
- Dams will damage and deplete fisheries.
- Dams are for the sake of aesthetics, even though we have no protection in place against ugly, inappropriate riverfront development.
- We'd be building new low-water dams as many cities are removing them as hazards.
Beyond the dams, this package has numerous other wasteful and often ill-defined projects.
- $55 million for the convention center and arena (where we've already spent $228.5 million).
- $27.3 million for a corporate welfare deal-closing fund at the airport -- something we voted down in Vision2 in 2012.
- $30 million to be given away to the county for Expo Square for however they want to use it; one city councilor called it a bribe.
- $15 million for a national headquarters for Bicycle Motocross (BMX).
- $5,320,000 for Tulsa Community College, which is already lavishly funded through our property taxes.
- $9,400,000 for a 119,000 sq. ft. Air National Guard simulator building which may never have simulators in it.
- $10 million for teacher retention and attraction isn't enough to buy a daily cup of coffee for each teacher; the money is there to trick voters concerned about school funding to vote for the dams.
- Because these taxes are a minimum of 15-years duration, in some cases permanent, I recommend that voters say NO and ask their leaders for a maximum five-year, pay-as-you-go package with a very specific list of projects.
- Jenks voters should reject their sales tax because it includes funds for a low-water dam.
- Glenpool voters should be aware that passing all three propositions will increase their already-high tax rate by another 0.55 cents on the dollar. This growing suburb has plenty of new retail, and you'd think Glenpool should be able to fund increased public services from growing revenues without a tax increase.
- Sapulpa voters may not wish to fund city land acquisition and removal of historic Route 66 motels in the Turner Turnpike gateway area.
- Owasso and Collinsville voters should look closely at their lists of proposed projects and consider whether their growing cities could fund improvements without a higher city sales tax rate.
As I wrote back in January, before the City of Tulsa proposal was set in stone:
If I were a cynic, I might believe that the City Council had no interest in whether these projects were feasible or appropriately budgeted. I might believe, were I a cynic, that these items were included just to get a few more hundred voters to the polls in the mood to vote yes on everything.
The better path would be for the Council to whittle down the list and propose a shorter-term (five years, max), pay-as-you-go (no "advanced funding" line item for interest and bond fees) sales tax that funded only those items that were of general public benefit and had been thoroughly vetted for feasibility and an accurate estimate of cost.
The City Council and Mayor Bartlett didn't follow that better path, so we need to tell them NO and tell them to put together a better package for our consideration.
Published at 23:45 on Monday, April 4, 2016. Postdated to remain at the top of the blog until the polls close.
Tomorrow, April 5, 2016, voters across Tulsa County have a special election for sheriff and will also vote on the county's sales tax proposal (1/20th of a cent for 15 years) for capital projects. Here's what the white countywide ballot will look like.
Voters in several Tulsa County municipalities will also be given a colored, city-specific ballot to approve increases in municipal sales tax which will go into effect on January 1, 2017, right after Tulsa County's Vision 2025 sales tax expires on December 31. Here's a synopsis with links to sample ballots on the Tulsa County Election Board website:
|Collinsville||0.55%, permanent, for capital expenditures|
|Glenpool||Prop 1||0.29%, 20 years, for capital improvements|
|Glenpool||Prop 2||0.26%, 20 years, for police and fire vehicles, facilities, communications equipment, and other equipment|
|Glenpool||Prop 3||0.55%, permanent, for staffing additional police and firefighting personnel|
|Jenks||0.55%, 15 years, including $16,670,000 for low-water dam and additional funds for other capital projects. Dam money subject to mutual agreement between Tulsa and Jenks approved by December 31, 2020.|
|Owasso||0.55%, 17 years, for street improvements and adjoining infrastructure and right-of-way expenditures on 96th St. N. and 116th St. N.|
|Sapulpa||0.50%, 15 years, only in Tulsa County, for economic development and land acquisition|
|Tulsa||Prop 1: Public Safety||0.16%, 4.5 years, then 0.26%, permanent, for police, fire, and 911|
|Tulsa||Prop 2: Street Maintenance and Public Transportation||0.085%, permanent, for maintaining and supporting public streets and public transportation systems|
|Tulsa||Prop 3: "Economic Development"||0.305%, 4.5 years, 0.805%, 4 years, 0.305%, 6.5 years, for low-water dams and other projects|
Bixbyvoters also have a municipal ballot, but it's for a 25-year extension of the Oklahoma Gas & Electric franchise, which allows OG+E access to city utility easements to deliver electricity to its customers.
It's interesting to see that the City of Sapulpa is proposing a tax increase only in the part of that city in Tulsa County (along I-44 between 51st and 61st), where an existing sales tax will be expiring. The reference to land acquisition suggests that they plan to purchase and clear some of the old Route 66 motels along that stretch (some of which date back to the completion of the Turner Turnpike in 1953) and then try to redevelop with more lucrative national chains.
Shoppers in the Osage County section of the City of Tulsa won't be as lucky -- the overall sales tax rate will rise there, since there isn't a corresponding tax expiring. (Here is the current list of city and county sales and use tax rates from the Oklahoma Tax Commission.) That'll affect the Walgreens, Family Dollar, and other shops on the northeast corner of Edison Street and Gilcrease Museum Road, and the gift shop and restaurant at Gilcrease Museum itself.
Tulsa County has a tentative list of projects for its 0.05%, 15-year package on its website, but with a caveat: "The list of projects outlined on this site have been discussed or requested by Tulsa County residents, County staff and/or the Tulsa County Commissioners. Only after further input from the public will a final decision be made as to what projects to include in a final package submitted to Tulsa County voters." The assortment of projects is reminiscent of the first Four to Fix the County vote in 2000 (in effect October 2001 - October 2006). At that time, the County Commissioners put four separate items on the ballot to avoid violating the Oklahoma Constitution's "single-subject" anti-logrolling rule. Given the refusal of judges to enforce the rule strictly, they seem to feel safe in lumping all of the projects together under one vague category.
The verbiage in the Jenks proposition about the dam is very interesting. The drop-dead date for an agreement with Tulsa is written into the proposition and set for the end of 2020, while the corresponding date for Tulsa to reach an agreement with Jenks and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation (MCN) is the end of 2016, and it's written into the Brown Ordinance for Prop. 3, rather than the ballot language. In both cases, failure to make the date releases the funds for other purposes, but the mismatch in dates means that the dam could be dead for four years before Jenks could legally repurpose that $16.67 million. Interesting, too, that the funds for the dam are described on the ballot in a way that focuses on operation and maintenance and other expenses that would be incurred long after the dam is built -- interesting because City of Tulsa officials have said they expect the MCN to cover maintenance costs for the dams. The Jenks ballot language makes no reference to MCN involvement.
Here's the language on the Jenks ballot:
Shall Ordinance No. 1392 of the City of Jenks, Oklahoma, adopted on February 1,2016. which levies and assesses a sales tax of five and one-half tenths of one percent (0.55%) upon the expiration of the current Vision 2025 sales tax be approved as a City of Jenks sales tax upon the gross receipts or proceeds on certain sales as therein defined, effective January 1, 2017, for 15 years for purposes including, Sixteen Million Six Hundred Seventy Thousand Dollars ($16,670,000) for funding of the proposed Jenks-Tulsa Arkansas River low water dam project, for the purposes of constructing, reconstructing, improving, remodeling, repairing, operating and maintaining the proposed low water dam and related facilities; with additional funds to be used for capital projects including constructing roads and road maintenance; park improvements and construction; construction of sidewalks and trails; and upgrades to storm water and sewer infrastructure; engineering; acquiring necessary lands and right of way; and/or to be applied or pledged toward the payment of principal and interest on any indebtedness, including refunding indebtedness, incurred by or on behalf of the City of Jenks for such purposes. including payment of the costs of issuance of such loans or bonds; defines terms; prescribes procedures, remedies, liens and fixes penalties; subject to a mutual agreement between the cities of Jenks and Tulsa for construction of the low water dam approved by December 31, 2020, otherwise funds identified for construction of the Jenks-Tulsa Arkansas River low water dam may be used for additional capital project categories as identified in this proposition, be approved?
Here's the language in the Tulsa ordinance:
The project entitled 'South Tulsa/Jenks Lake and Related Amenities' is contingent on additional funding for other aspects of the entire project, to be provided by the City of Jenks and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, including a long-term operating and maintenance endowment. If a Memorandum of Understanding is not executed by all three funding partners on or before December 31, 2016, funding allocated by the City of Tulsa for this project ($64,214,000) will be reallocated according to the provisions of this ordinance, provided that Eighteen Million Dollars ($18,000,000) will first be reallocated to a long-term operating and maintenance endowment for Zink Lake and Related Amenities.
UPDATE: For the record, here are some links to coverage of Citizens for a Better Vision:
Fox23: Vision Tulsa responds to opposition group, Mar 15, 2016 - 9:01 PM
News on 6: 'No More Dam Taxes,' Tulsa Vision Opposition Group Urges, March 15, 2016
KWGS: Citizens for a Better Vision Ask Voters to Reject Tulsa Sales Tax Measures
It's ridiculous. Tomorrow we'll vote for a sheriff to fill the remaining eight months of the unexpired term of Stanley Glanz, and then a week later candidates will file to run for the full four-year term that begins on January 1, 2017.
Glanz resigned effective November 1, 2015. Had he held on until January 1, we'd have avoided a special election altogether.
Vic Regalado was not my choice in the special primary. I was (and still am) concerned about a pattern of donations by employees and executives of one particular Rogers County-based company that is highly suggestive of straw donations -- effectively exceeding campaign contributions by giving money to someone else to give to the candidate. (The same pattern was evident in the ethics filings for Brian Crain's 2015 campaign for district attorney.) The situation could have been shrugged off as something out of Regalado's control, for which he deserved no blame, but then he enmeshed himself in the controversy by crashing a press conference to discuss the donations and disingenuously playing the race card. Further analysis of his donor list shows considerable overlap with Glanz's contributors over the years, which doesn't inspire hope that we'll have the clean start we need at the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office (TCSO).
But the more I learn about the extremist political leanings of Democrat nominee Rex Berry, Regalado's lone opponent on the April 5, 2016, ballot, the more worried I get at the thought of someone like that running the sheriff's office, even as a temporary caretaker.
The Republican Party of Tulsa County has been running a series of the "Top 5 Most Outrageously Liberal Posts by Democrat Rex Berry" on its Facebook page. Berry called far-Left Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, "My dream team!"
Sharing an article about "post-Christian" Americans, Rex Berry states that he's "proud to be counted in this group." Berry trumpeted his end-of-year donations to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. In another Rex Berry post, the Obama administration is called "a successful presidency." Berry "liked" an article from the Progressive Secular Humanist Examiner about consumption of homosexual pornography by state, with the comment, "Wow, we beat Texas!"
Berry also shared a post by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, an anti-Second Amendment group that hides behind a deceptive name. Berry's implied support for the group is worrisome given an Oklahoma sheriff's role in issuing gun permits.
Here are a few gems I found in Berry's public timeline. He seems to be very open about his far-left views on the Second Amendment, religion, and economics.
Luke Sherman, runner-up to Regalado in the special primary election last month (special county races have no runoff), has already announced his intention to run for the full term regardless of Tuesday's outcome. Russell Crow, a former TCSO deputy and Tulsa police officer, did not run for the unexpired term but has announced for the four-year term.
I will support someone other than Regalado for the GOP nomination for the full term. Strategically, a Regalado loss on Tuesday would make it easier to elect a different Republican for the full term, but I am haunted by the thought of the damage that Berry could do as effectively an eight-month lame duck with complete patronage power over the sheriff's office. At worst, Regalado might amount to a more cautious clone of Stanley Glanz and as such media scrutiny ought to keep any excesses in check. For conservatives, Regalado tomorrow and someone else in June seems to be the best option.
Fisheries biologist Chris Whisenhunt with a sauger he caught in the Arkansas River beneath the 96th Street (Jenks) bridge, an area that would be affected by the proposed south Tulsa / Jenks dam.
Tulsa fisheries biologist Chris Whisenhunt has some concerns about the dam's effect on fish and fishing. With his permission, here are some comments he has posted on Facebook about the dams .
Voting Yes on Proposition 3 will almost assuredly destroy the delicate ecosystem within the Arkansas River by displacing or eliminating many sensitive, native aquatic species for the sake of "economic development". As a fisheries biologist, it is my opinion that dams in the river are a BAD IDEA! (And no, the new lakes that would be created will not be good for fishing but would actually eliminate the existing fisheries). Tulsa should explore other ways to create economic development that doesn't risk damage to the environment for what is simply aesthetic reasons.
Many indigenous species (sauger, white bass, paddlefish, shovelnose sturgeon, and many others) currently thrive in the area of the river to be impacted by the proposed dams. Voting yes will most likely displace those fish, eliminating the existing fishery for the sake of aesthetic value in hopes of promoting economic development. The new lakes will not be able to support a viable fishery. Any loss of, or damage to, the existing fishery may result in mitigation by the city at the cost of its tax payers.
And in response to diagrams of the dam operation, Whisenhunt notes the dilemma -- officials will have to open the dams and let the lakes drain out for five months to allow for fish spawning or keep the dams shut and degrade the stock of fish over time.
I've seen the cartoon videos & diagrams of how the dams are supposed to work and am not overly impressed. First, many sensitive species in the Arkansas River are benthic (bottom oriented) & most likely will not make it over the contour of the dam. Second, spawning season for the variety of fishes in the river is from February to June and we have no guarantee the city is prepared to leave the dams down that entire length of time. Third, I've asked for & have yet to receive any SCIENTIFIC, peer reviewed research proving the dams allow fish passage (a little something more than a cartoon). Finally, the continuous filling & draining of the lake will prevent any viable fishery from being established in the lake itself, one of the selling points the city of Tulsa has tried to give the public. The city is risking ecological disaster for aesthetic value...a very bad idea!
Sand islands and braided channels are what make the prairie stream that is Arkansas River.
"It's not dry, it's just not the Mississippi, but it's not supposed to be the Mississippi," Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Fisheries Biologist Josh Johnston said....
"We're on that knife's edge already of being too fragmented. It's taken the perfect year to get these fish where they are. They're persisting, but just barely," Johnston said.
Johnston has studied the river and the species that call it home for years. He said adding another dam could severely hurt or even wipe out several native fish, like the shovelnose sturgeon, American eel, white bass, sauger and paddlefish....
But Johnston said the river is always flowing, even though it may not look like it. He said most of the fish in the Arkansas River are genetically made up to survive and thrive in that sort of harsh environment.
"We're not looking at what we have and being thankful that this is native, this is Oklahoma right here," Johnston said.
He said for fish to migrate properly, most of the gates would need to stay down throughout spawning season. It wouldn't work opening and closing them throughout the four-month period, Johnston said.
"I just don't think the city is going to be willing to leave that down long enough," he said.
Johnston said he's gone to the city's public meetings, but said the city hasn't consulted with his division of the wildlife department since about 2009.
"This one's been the biggest push I've ever seen Tulsa make for these dams and we were not invited to the talks, we were not asked, we were not questioned," Johnston said. "They say they've had a lot of biological input by some of the greatest biologists, but it's not with my agency, and we are the biologists that work on this system."
The Arkansas River usually only has strands of what appears to be muddy water. Biologists know there's a rich diversity of fish, but only through a remarkable bit of luck, were they able to show the rest of us.
"And we found just wads of fish that you wouldn't think would be here in our backyard," said Josh Johnson with the Department of Wildlife Conservation.
It started with an idea to see if any sturgeon were still in the river. Hardly anyone in the Wildlife Department had ever seen one.
"We never even took into consideration that this might have been a better place to look for them, and all of a sudden this guy calls in and he's caught one," Johnson said.
That led to an underwater survey on what turned out to be three days of clear water in unbearable cold, the water was just above freezing but there was 20 feet of visibility. They saw stripers and buffalo fish and photographed five shovelnose sturgeon.
It's very typical of Tulsa to embrace an urban development fad just as other cities are rethinking and reversing course. (Case in point: No sooner did we close off Main Street for a pedestrian mall than other cities began noticing that pedestrian malls killed retail businesses and started reopening pedestrianized streets.) When officials push Tulsans to be early adopters of new fads, Tulsans say no, but officials stubbornly keep pushing, long after the moment has passed. In September 1969, Tulsans voted down a bond issue for low-water dams, 29% to 71%, but 47 years later, officials are still trying to talk us into it. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is waking up to the safety and environmental hazards posed by these decorative dams.
From the October 2015 edition of Columbus Monthly, "Low-Head Dams: Danger Below":
Though their usefulness faded decades ago, low-head dams are a lingering threat to people and wildlife. Since the 1950s, at least 441 people have died at 235 submerged dams in 38 states. About half of those deaths occurred in the past 15 years--a period in which many cities have sought to repurpose their rivers into picturesque attractions that would draw tourists and shoppers to business districts....
The dams, dubbed "killer dams" and "drowning machines" by critics, can be dangerously misleading. Most onlookers observe a scenic, harmless-looking waterfall, but a submerged hydraulic jump forms deadly whirlpool-like currents....
Aside from their threat to human safety, low-head dams have been causing a deluge of ecological problems for decades, conservationists say. They stifle fish migration up and downstream, degrade the river's chemical quality, increase the water temperature and starve fish of oxygen....
As for FLOW, the group conducted water-quality studies to look at the physical, chemical and biological attributes of the Olentangy River near and around the 8-foot high concrete dam at Fifth Avenue, and found the river did not meet quality standards. FLOW, which developed the Lower Olentangy Watershed Action Plan in 2003, recommended the dam be removed. Doing so would increase dissolved oxygen levels (making it easier and better for fish to breathe), unblock sediment flow backed up by the dam and increase fish migration, they reported....
When the Fifth Avenue dam was dismantled in 2012, it joined the list of more than 50 dams removed in Ohio since 1973. In total, the project cost about $6.9 million; it took $200,000 to remove the dam. Some of the funds were allocated to create four large wetlands, establish native vegetation, and reconstruct river features and infrastructure such as storm-water outfalls. The cost was shared by Ohio EPA, Ohio State and the city....
Communities working in partnership with nonprofit organizations and state and federal agencies removed 72 dams in 19 states in 2014, according to American Rivers, a national river conservation group. Five of those removals were in Ohio, adding to the 1,185 dams removed across the U.S. since 1912.
Finding a balance between public and environmental safety can get thorny when dam owners and community members don't want their dams removed. Garcia says residents in Yorkville, Illinois, felt a strong sense of nostalgia for a 1960s-era dam on the Fox River. The dam's spillway has since been modified with four concrete steps, a fish ladder and a bypass channel for kayakers and canoeists.
"Usually the people who want the dams removed don't live near them," Garcia says. "There is almost an emotional attachment."
But Garcia says there's one driving force behind all of this: liability. Tschantz agrees, questioning the legality of having low-head dams present on waterways as a hidden and concealed danger rather than an open and obvious hazard.
One of the joys of this campaign has been getting to know some valiant community leaders that I had not previously met. Tracie Chandler, a leader in the North Star neighborhood, was instrumental in getting the city to do a small area plan covering the 36th Street North corridor between the Osage County line and Lewis Ave. This area was once prosperous but long ago fell on hard times. The small-area plan process brought homeowners, business owners, and city planners together to determine a path forward. Unfortunately, Tulsa civic leaders have a bad habit of either ignoring northside activists or treating them with dismissive condescension, and the modest capital improvements that these small area plans request -- small investments that can make a huge difference to an area's potential -- are typically ignored in favor of bigger, splashier projects closer to Tulsa's Money Belt.
Tracie Chandler has written several items of commentary on Vision Tulsa, and with her permission, we're happy to publish them here at BatesLine. First, here is a list of concerns about the package, which Ms. Chandler read at our news conference on Tuesday and a related graphic.
We want to thank the Councilors and the Mayor for their work on the Vision Package. However, we have some concerns. Councilor Ewing said, people without representation were being left off the list to the detriment (harm) of the neighborhoods. Another councilor responded with. "They have their Councilor." Ewing replied, "You know what I Mean!" We instantly understood. People with money, power, or influence got their proposals on the list.
Example: The Gilcrease Museum gets sixty-five million ($65,000,000) of our hard earned dollars; a donor will give them fifty million dollars ($50,000,000). Example of influence?: Had Councilor Henderson supported the 36th St. N. Corridor Small Area Plan Implementation Proposal, coupled with the Mohawk Business Park, we would have had two straight miles prepped for economic development down 36th St. N. between N. Lewis and MLK. The Peoria Connection, which has the least impact of the two and cost five million dollars ($5,000.000) more, made the list. Is it because of Henderson's close ties to NTEDi, the organization submitting the proposal?
Everyone cares about public safety, however, here are our concerns: The tax is permanent instead of for 15 years.
The fire department will get seventy million dollars ($70,000,000), even though it didn't complete an analysis of needed funds. A fireman was overheard telling one of the Councilors that there was not a need for the trucks she was seeking. Many of the "fire runs" are for EMS purposes instead of fighting fires.
Do we need 160 more police to the tune of two hundred two million dollars ($202,000,000)? Even with the layoff of about 120 police in 2010, major crimes decreased. Minorities, especially Blacks, are harassed/arrested more than others. These arrests destroy families. More police, more minorities going to jail. The recreation centers are gone, kids, with their parent(s) in jail, are often without supervision. They act out, doing unwise things leading to their arrests (a continuous cycle of family destruction)! Keeping people locked up, is costly; It is cheaper to keep them out of prison.
We like the Gilcrease Museum, however, let's examine another use for the sixty-five million ($65,000,000) that would directly benefit North Tulsa. Five point five million dollars ($5,500,000) is about what it would have taken to renovate recreation centers at Ben Hill, B. C. Franklin, and Springdale parks. After utilities, the remaining fifty-nine million, two hundred eighty-nine thousand, twenty-five dollars ($59,289,025) could be invested in an endowment; at 3.5%, two million, seventy-five thousand, one hundred sixteen dollars ($2,075,116) to run the centers.
Zoo: "Do we need to pay $25,000,000 (twenty-five million dollars) to build a "Pachyderm Palace" as a new home for elephants?"
Lot in the Package for North Tulsa???????????????
You will hear that there is a lot in the package for North Tulsa, the same story we heard before and for the most part, North Tulsa looks the same. How will this be any different? Three of the items referred to are the Gilcrease Museum, The Zoo, and the Airport. Who will benefit the most, North Tulsa residents or the city?
Tulsans will pay taxes for Jenks schools, because Tulsa students attend those schools. Is Osage County paying for students that attend Central and Academy Central? We do need to retain teachers, however, North Tulsa Schools get more of the inexperienced teachers than South Tulsa Schools. What assurance do we have that this will change?
OSU: Why are we giving OSU 3.6 million dollars ($3,600,000) when they are receiving $1,000,000 (one million dollars) a year from Langston for rent? They could have saved that amount.
Street Maintenance and Traffic:
Everyone, especially North Tulsans, want their streets repaired. The City continuously maintain NEW streets, because it is cheaper, as opposed to older streets. Where does that leave older neighborhoods?
River Project: How will the River Project benefit North Tulsans? Will the money brought in by the project help North Tulsa? What part of the city gets most of the tax dollars?
Whose Vision is this?
This package does not represent the wishes/desires of the citizens. Where is the vision?
We understand your concerns about Langston! However, would you keep an apple that is 93.4% rotten; North Tulsa only got 6.6% of the package? That makes the package for North Tulsans 93.4% rotten. Citizens of Tulsa, since this package does not represent our vision for Tulsa, should we accept it? If we accept this package, what message will we send? Won't it be that, it doesn't matter if our voices are not heard? Won't it be, walk all over us although, these are OUR tax dollars? Are we men or are we mice content with crumbs?
Presented by a Coalition of Concerned Citizens
North Tulsa residents are among the most skeptical of visionary sales taxes. They know that they will bear a heavy share of the costs, but they are doubtful of seeing any benefits. They'll pay extra sales taxes on the basics of life -- food, clothing, electricity, natural gas -- and the money will go to build play-places in well-to-do neighborhoods in midtown and south Tulsa. North Tulsans have seen their city swimming pools closed and filled in, their recreation centers torn down, and their streets fall apart, while the other side of I-244 seems to get everything fixed promptly.
Proponents of the Vision Tulsa Dam Tax are desperate to convince voters in the North Community that money for Gilcrease Museum ($65 million), the Tulsa Zoo ($25 million), and the airport ($27.3 million) constitute money to help develop the most economically distressed neighborhoods on the northside.
Yes, Gilcrease Museum is north of Admiral, as are the zoo and the airport, and they've been north of Admiral since long before I was born, and these are valuable institutions for our city, but they haven't generated nearby commercial development, much less improved conditions for the hardest-hit neighborhoods in north Tulsa, which are miles away from these institutions. To count the $117.3 million allocated to these institutions as money for north Tulsa economic development is disingenuous and shows contempt for the intelligence of North Community residents.
Earlier today, I emceed a press conference at Rudisill Library featuring the remarks several northside residents concerned about the lack of economic impact for their community in the Vision Tulsa Dam Tax proposal.
Sherry Laskey spoke of her impressions upon returning to her hometown last year after five years away. She recalled Vision 2025's passage in 2003, when her son was a toddler, and remembers the promises made about economic growth and the high hopes she had. She sees Archer Street as a a stark dividing line between development and infrastructure condition to the north and to the south. Thirteen years later her son is a teenager, and she sees that the physical and economic condition of the community has gone backwards. "Nothing has changed. Things have gotten worse. There's nowhere for our children to get a job once they graduate from high school."
Vanessa Hall Harper expressed her displeasure with the process used to select projects for the northside. An ill-defined project, devoid of specifics, called Peoria Connections was selected for funding in the package, while projects growing out of the thorough small-area planning process for the 36th Street North corridor (also known as the Phoenix District) were left on the cutting-room floor. Residents were told that the vague but more expensive Peoria Connections project (the pitch presentation consisted of a series of uncaptioned photos taken along the street) would be selected -- take it or leave it.
Ms. Harper said that "[the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce] held several forums right here in Rudisill Library. We asked the community to come in, and we showed them all of the presentations that were made before the City Council, and we asked the community to prioritize their top five projects. We sent that information to the Mayor and the City Council, and it was not even considered.... We are tired of being told what's going to happen after the fact." She said that the failure of City Hall to listen to the community's priorities was her primary reason for voting no on the "economic development" package.
Tracie Chandler is a leader in the North Star Neighborhood Association, which secured the funding to create the 36th Street North corridor plan and spearheaded the plan's completion and incorporation into the city's Comprehensive Plan. The city has already committed $8.5 million toward the plan's implementation in the Improve Our Tulsa package (the current Third Penny package).
"If you've got money, power, and influence, you got on the list." As an example of power and money, Ms. Chandler pointed to $65 million in tax dollars for Gilcrease, which also has $50 million promised from private funds. As for influence, Ms. Chandler noted the selection of the vague and more expensive Peoria Connection project over the 36th Street North proposal, which would have cost $5 million less than the Peoria Connection proposal and would have facilitated two miles of redevelopment from Lewis to MLK. "Could it be because of Councilor [Jack] Henderson's close ties to NTEDI [North Tulsa Economic Development Initiative], the organization that submitted the proposal? Does that sound like influence to you?" Ms. Chandler said that the Peoria Connection plan would have little to no economic impact, while the 36th Street small area plan would have tremendous impact, was detailed, and had been adopted unanimously by the City Council into the Comprehensive Plan.
"This is our money. People, we have the power. These committees, the councilor, the mayor -- they did not listen to us. This needs to be voted down. They need to come to the citizens and hear what we have to say. If we accept this, then we're saying that 'it doesn't matter that our voices weren't heard; walk all over us!' We need to be heard."
Later in the meeting, Ms. Chandler said she planned to write another editorial about her councilor's involvement in the project selection process, to be titled, "Vision Package: Judas Still Walks among Us."
Noting that there were a couple of items that northsiders would find positive (funding for Langston University's Tulsa campus and for a business park), Ms. Chandler emphasized, "For North Tulsa, this package is 94% rotten. So my question to you is this: Would you eat an apple that was 94% rotten just to get to the good part?"
I chimed in to mention the very back-handed "endorsement" of the "economic development" package by the Oklahoma Eagle. Ray Pearcey urged northsiders to vote for the dam tax, while agreeing substantially with Tracie Chandler's assessment of the many useless items in the package.
But we remain opposed to a passel of environmentally insensitive, economically incoherent or not particularly well thought out projects - including the proposed Arkansas River/Dam initiative and a bunch of other poorly defined or questionable items. But here's the bottom line - the economic package is like a grand, but oddly sourced salad - one that may have some tough seeds or even some nails in it - but if you want to eat the salad - you have to eat everything in the bowl.
Maybe that's Ray's way, but if I got a salad with nails in it, I'd send it back to the kitchen and find another restaurant. Voters need to send this salad back on April 5, and then we need to fire the chefs that tried to serve us a salad bowl full of shrapnel. I reminded the assembled press that the current Vision 2025 tax doesn't expire until December 31, and we have three more election dates between now and then when the City Council could present us with a sound proposal -- nothing but fresh veggies in the salad.
James Johnson, another lifelong north Tulsa resident, spoke up to note that city leaders were asking the poorest citizens to fund $65 million for Gilcrease and $25 million for the zoo, in exchange for a "$7 million parking lot for Mr. Kaiser," referring to the proposed industrial park. "If you're a north Tulsa resident, and if you vote yes on this Vision -- their Vision -- please take a look in your mirror and say to yourself, I'm the reason that north Tulsa looks like it does." He pointed out that there was more economic activity on 36th Street North in the 1980s than there is today. Referring to Mayor Dewey Bartlett's slogan of "One Tulsa," Johnson said, "Mayor Bartlett, are you serious? He's running around, popping his collar, and north Tulsa looks like it does. You know, my grandmother would say, he needs to cut three willow switches, bring them to me, and take his pants down, and let me put the three willow switches on him, because he's wrong."
Ms. Harper pointed toward the area's lack of a supermarket and the lack of street lights on the expressways. "When you're wanting to spend millions and millions of dollars on other projects when basic needs of the community are not being met, in my book that's frivolous spending. Let's meet the basic needs of every community first -- that's the purpose of our tax dollars -- and then let's move on to other projects."
Mr. Johnson reminded the audience that several city-owned recreation centers and swimming pools in north Tulsa were recently demolished; meanwhile the pool at McClure Park in east Tulsa was going to be rebuilt. "We've torn out all these parks in north Tulsa as if black children, children in north Tulsa don't matter." Ms. Chandler emphasized that there is nothing in the package for north Tulsa children.
Regarding the demolished pools and rec centers, I mentioned that back in 2003, many of these pools were closed because of budget problems and streetlights on the expressways were extinguished. We were promised that if we passed Vision 2025, we'd see enough economic growth to generate the revenues to reopen the pools, turn the lights back on, fix the streets, and hire more police officers. Vision 2025 was approved, and it built a lot of pretty things, but the economic growth never came, the pools were never reopened, and now we're being asked for a permanent 17.25% increase in our permanent sales tax rate to pay for basic city operational costs.
After the jump, links to media coverage of the event, presentations and details of the two competing north Tulsa development proposals -- the one that was picked, and the one that was passed by, and links to and comments about the proposals for Gilcrease, the airport, and the zoo.
Over the last 13 years, I've written quite a bit about the Arkansas River and proposals for damming and remodeling it, and about what Tulsans really are seeking when they ask for water in the river. Recently I resurrected several of my Urban Tulsa Weekly columns and my 2007 cover story on the topic from Internet Oblivion.
Here's a selection of past BatesLine stories about river development. I especially recommend the first story, as it has lots of pretty pictures like the one above, and it reflects a change of heart on my part -- the realization that a low-water dam would be a bad deal even if it were given to us free, because of the beauty that it would cover up.
- September 2014: Turning the Arkansas River into Joan Rivers: The fascinating variety of wildlife, including bald eagles, that enjoy the sandbars that low-water dams would destroy.
- January 2007: The River Review: Planning Tulsa's Riverfront: A Brief History: Urban Tulsa Weekly cover story about the 100-year history of Tulsa's plans for river development.
- October 2006: A riverwalk promenade proposal: lower Elm Creek: A waterfront promenade connecting the 18th & Boston district to the river could be created by uncovering Elm Creek, which currently flows underground through giant stormwater pipes.
- October 2006: A promenade on the river: NYC's Bryant Park serves as the inspiration for amenities that could have turned the east bank from 11th to 21st Street into a lively place to see and be seen.
- September 2006: Wanted: A Promenade: When Tulsans say they want "river development," what are they really after?
- September 2006: River realities: The Arkansas, viewed from an airboat: Steve Smith, who operated airboat tours on the river, on how Tulsa should shape and use the river.
- August 2006: Making the most of Tulsa's unique places: The case for special design rules for the river corridor to ensure development that makes the most of this unique resource.
Here's a link to the complete archive of the Arkansas River category on BatesLine.
Among the many flaws in the Vision Tulsa dam tax proposal (on the April 5, 2016, ballot) are what I've decided to call the Payola Projects -- projects that involve giving a chunk of money to various institutions in hopes of winning their constituents' votes for the dam tax.
A Payola Project typically involves a suspiciously round sum of money which the city will transfer to another governmental entity (which often has its own source of funding). The amount of money may or may not be enough to pay for a specific construction project. They may not even have even a specific project in mind, or the project might be contingent on a string of approvals yet to be obtained. The important thing is for the target constituency of the Payola Project to think that the small amount of money they're getting is worth wasting $128 million on dams in the Arkansas River.
A Payola Project is all about symbolism over substance: "We haven't allocated enough money to do anything meaningful about this issue that matters to you, dear voter, but we want you to think that we care, so you'll vote for our Dam Tax."
On four separate occasions, voters have rejected taxpayer-funded low-water dams in the Arkansas River, but city mis-leaders like G. T. Bynum and Dewey Bartlett Jr. insist that they'll be a game-changer, so they're back on the ballot for a fifth time, surrounded by a collection of Payola Projects. Think of a Payola Project as an electoral flotation device for the big, expensive dam project, which would otherwise sink at the ballot box as fast as Luca Brasi in concrete overshoes sank in the East River.
The Payola Project for voters concerned about public education is listed this way in Title 43-K, the ordinance that (vaguely) regulates how money in Vision Tulsa Proposition No. 3 for "Economic Development" must be spent:
Public Schools - Partnership with Union, Jenks & Tulsa Public Schools in Teacher Retention, Recruitment, and Training Efforts: $10,000,000
(I wonder why they didn't include the rest of the public school districts that serve the City of Tulsa: the Broken Arrow School District, which serves growing new Tulsa subdivisions southeast of 31st and 145th East Ave, or Catoosa School District, which serves recently annexed areas in Wagoner County.)
Here's how Tulsa City Councilor and former Tulsa school board member Anna America answered a question about the project on March 24 -- a mere 12 days before the election, showing the vague and unsettled state of the proposal
Jeff, we are still working on the final details. The original proposal was for $50 million for two pieces -- housing incentives that could be used for homebuyers or renters, and stipends for continuous learning in the summer. It was scaled back to $10 million, so we are discussing exactly how that would look -- my hope that we do it in the way that has the most impact with the most teacher. There has been some discussion of using the housing part in conjunction with some property the city owns to create a "teacher town" but there are a lot of moving pieces on that., so it may not work out. This was the document submitted as part of the orignal proposal (although it looks to me like they issed a page in the scanning) and we will bascially be doing a scaled back version, although we purposefully took out language specific to housing and made it "attraction and rettention" so we have more flexibility on allowing the district use the money for other kinds of incentives for teachers.. https://www.cityoftulsa.org/media/432235/Teach-Live-T-Town-Presentation.pdf
According to State Department of Education reports the Tulsa district had, in school year 2014-2015, 3,118 teachers, Jenks had 819, and Union had 1,109. That's a total of 5,046 teachers. If you divided that "attraction and rettention[sic]" bonus among those teachers for the 15 years of the tax, it would amount to $132.11 per teacher per year, or about 73¢ per instructional day. It's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, as my grandma used to say, but it wouldn't buy a decent cup of coffee, and it's hard to see how that will succeed in attracting or retaining anyone who isn't otherwise determined to be here.
Voters who care about funding for public education ought to lobby the legislature or petition to raise the cap on the local property tax levies for schools or to find some other local basis for increasing funding if local voters want to do so. Voters who care about attracting and retaining teachers should lobby their school boards to reduce the administrative burden so that funds already available to the school will go to the classroom instead.
Keep in mind that you have the option of voting yes or no on four different propositions on April 5. Keep in mind that the current Vision tax doesn't expire until December 31, 2016. There's plenty of time for the City Council to develop a sound plan, and three more opportunities this year to put it before the voters.
If you care about funding for public education, you should vote down Proposition 3, which includes this insulting attempt at a bribe, and tell the City Council to put together a better plan.
Vision Tulsa Vote Yes ads claim (dishonestly) that approval of the Vision Tulsa Dam Tax hike on April 5, 2016, will prevent future strip malls from being built along the river. In fact, nothing in the Vision Tulsa propositions address development standards. Moreover,
the City Council has the power right now to prevent inappropriate development, both through the zoning ordinance and through placing conditions on the sale or lease of city-owned land. Far from helping protect the river corridor, voter approval of the proposed Vision Tulsa Dam Tax would instead surrender the only financial leverage Tulsans have to push for common-sense rules to ensure appropriate future development along the Arkansas River.
The City Council has had the power all along to amend the zoning ordinance to require appropriate and compatible development along the river. The City Council could create a new zoning district along the river and specify design guidelines for any new construction within the district. If the design guidelines are sufficiently objective, they could be enforced directly through the permitting process. If the design guidelines involve a degree of subjective judgment, the ordinance could require that applications for construction be approved by a design review board before a building permit is issued. While this cannot be done overnight -- the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission would have to review such an ordinance and make a recommendation before the City Council could act -- it can be done. We have an example just down the turnpike.
Oklahoma City has numerous design-focused zoning overlay districts; many of them have been in place for over 30 years. Some are intended to preserve the walkable, urban characteristics of historic commercial districts like 23rd Street and Classen Blvd. Some are aimed at ensuring that new development is compatible with existing development in a neighborhood. Two districts, established in 2007, specifically deal with the banks of the North Canadian River (aka "Oklahoma River"): The Scenic River Overlay District and the Scenic River Overlay Design District.
It's not as though the need for design guidelines along Tulsa's riverfront has suddenly arisen. Starting around ten years ago, chain restaurants, a shopping center, and a convenience store were built on the west side of Riverside between 96th Street and 101st Street. All of these buildings turn their backs to the river, and most are typical cookie-cutter, chain-store architecture, a huge waste of the unique opportunity presented by the river (sandbars or no sandbars). That nothing has been done to date leads me to believe that nothing would be done once the Council has secured the dam tax increase.
(MORE: In an August 2006 column, I explained why design guidelines were appropriate for unique places like riverfronts and the gateways to our city. In February 2007, then-Mayor Kathy Taylor called for a study of special zoning for the river corridor, but as far as I can tell, the effort never went beyond the discussion phase.)
City leaders have even more control over riverfront development when the project requires the use of publicly-owned land. And yet our current mayor and council seem determined to discard that leverage.
Back on August 11, 2015, the Tulsa Public Facilities Authority (TPFA) voted 3-2 to sell the northern section of Helmerich Park, a city park along the Arkansas River southwest of 71st and Riverside, to a commercial developer for the construction of a strip mall and large parking lot.
Just a few weeks earlier, on July 16, 2015, the City Council voted to change the comprehensive plan land-use designation for the parcel from "Park and Open-Space" to "Mixed-Use Corridor" and from "Area of Stability" to "Area of Change." This greased the path for any zoning accommodation that the developers might need. A no vote by the Council may well have deterred the developer from pursuing the shopping center.
A lawsuit challenging the TPFA's authority to sell city-owned land without the blessing of the City Council has put the sale on hold, but there are reports that proponents of the sale have found a way around this roadblock, and that this will be under discussion at a meeting of the TPFA this Thursday, March 31, 2016, 4:30 p.m, in Room 10-203 at City Hall. (The meeting notice is online, but the agenda has not yet been posted.) The way around the roadblock? If the City Council votes to abandon the section of the park as surplus to the city's needs, the lawsuit would be moot, and TPFA would have permission to move ahead with the sale to the developers.
Former Tulsa Mayor Terry Young has been a leader in the effort to stop the commercial development of the northern half of Helmerich Park. Late last week his alert was posted to the Save Helmerich Park Facebook page:
Helmerich Park Friends:
The Tulsa Public Facilities Authority has scheduled a new Special Meeting to act on a request to the City Council to ABANDON parts of Helmerich Park.
The request to ABANDON a tract in the park is to allow the sale of the land to private developers for the construction of a 52,000 square foot shopping center and acres of asphalt parking.
WE NEED HELMERICH PARK SUPPORTERS TO ATTEND THIS MEETING TO RAISE DEEP CONCERNS ABOUT THIS ACTION!
The meeting will be:
March 31, 2016
Room 10-203 (Tenth Floor)
City Hall - One Technology Center
175 East 2nd Street
Please mark your calendar and try to attend. Bring other supporters. This board needs to know the depth and breadth of our opposition.
Here is what is at stake:
In response to our lawsuit which makes it clear that TPFA does not have the power to sell any or all of Helmerich Park, TPFA is planning to ask the City Council to do it by:
Passing a resolution abandoning the park use of a portion of Helmerich Park and finding it is no longer needed for public use.
TPFA will ask the City Council to:
Endorse, support, and consent to the sale of Helmerich Park to North Point Property for building a shopping center.
We have a full week to add this meeting to our respective schedules.
I hope you will join us to add many, many more faces to our efforts to sway TPFA and to SAVE HELMERICH PARK.
Last week, a local TV station spiked a well-researched news story about funding problems for the proposed south Tulsa / Jenks low-water dam and the awareness of Tulsa elected officials of the problem before they voted to put the proposal on the ballot. The story's sudden withdrawal hints at pressure by local power-brokers, panicked that the public will become aware of the flimsy foundation of the "Vision Tulsa" sales tax proposal. Tulsans will vote three proposed new city taxes and a new county tax up or down in an April 5, 2016, special election.
An extensive 1163-word news story by reporter Rick Maranon about the Muscogee Creek Nation's refusal to commit to funding for maintenance of the dam was posted to Fox23.com last Tuesday evening, March 15, 2016, then was deleted from the website later the same evening. While long website news stories are typically transcripts of video reports airing on Fox23's nightly news cast, no such story was aired.
The story cites a letter from Muscogee Creek Nation officials to city leaders, panicked emails among city officials about the implications of the MCN letter, video of council committee meetings, and other sources of information. Reporter Rick Maranon did a solid job of connecting the dots. Here's one of the more damning excerpts from the story:
FOX23 has reported numerous time within the past year that current and past city officials have stated the current state of the Zink Dam in Tulsa is the result of a lack of proper maintenance funding, and they wanted to set up an endowment so the current disrepair of the dam wouldn't happen again.
City officials long assumed that the Creek Nation would be more than willing to pick up the tab because of their properties along the river involving Riverspirit Casino and the Flying Tee.
But after FOX23 reported that the Creek Nation was going to set up an endowment, members of the Creek Nation began to contact FOX23 saying they were not aware of the multi-million dollar commitment Tulsa officials had allegedly assumed they would be fine with.
The tribe's own internal news agency quoted Creek Nation representatives to Tulsa as saying they were not informed of the plan to set up the endowment and partner with Jenks and Tulsa on the dams.
Multiple sources close to the Vision Tulsa project who have been asked not to be identified have simply said city leaders assumed the tribe would be on board without consulting them of their plans before they presented them to voters as a done deal set in stone.
The first officials meeting to discuss an endowment happened on February 11th, and days later, the tribe officially notified city leaders they were out of the Vision low water dam plan....
On February 23rd, Tulsa City Council Vice Chair Anna America stated in an e-mail to councilors, "I think we need to make that clear to the public ASAP, and not try to be ambiguous at the press conference or in any other comments."
She went on to state in the same e-mail," I don't want to wait that long to say there won't be a south Tulsa dam if the Creeks say today they aren't participating in funding this year."
But the request appears to have fallen on deaf ears because two days later on February 25th, Tulsa city leaders launched the Vision Tulsa campaign stating that two low water dams would be built on the Arkansas River if the proposal is approved April 5th.
On Tuesday, March 15, 2016, at 7:58 pm CDT, Fox23 posted the detailed, 1163-word news story, headlined "Tulsa dam plan dead in the water"
The article was posted at the following URL, which now leads to a "404" page.
A person who saw the story on the Fox23 website when it was live reports that it was offline soon after.
As of Saturday, March 19, 2016, at 7:00 pm CDT, however, the story was still available in the cache of the Bing search engine and cache of the Google search engine captured by Bing when they crawled the page during its brief time in existence.
For posterity, I printed both cached versions of the story to PDF, using the Chrome browser's simplified print option.
Here is a PDF of Bing's cache of Tulsa Dam Plan Dead in the Water.
Here is a PDF of Google's cache of Tulsa dam plan dead in the water.
Other automated web-content harvesters captured portions of the story:
KOKI FOX 23
According to multiple documents, including internal e-mails, Tulsa city leaders knew the south Tulsa-Jenks dam had fallen through, yet Tulsa city leaders not only kicked off their Vision Tulsa campaign in late February as if nothing had happened, they ...
KOKI FOX 23
Tulsa dam plan dead in the water | FOX23
KOKI FOX 23
A plan to build a low water dam on the Arkansas River in the south Tulsa-Jenks area is dead. The Muscogee Creek Nation said they do not have the funds to ...
and more »
So what happened? Fox23 isn't commenting on the story's disappearance, but it's reasonable to speculate based on behavior by Vote Yes forces in past big-project sales tax elections. I have reason to believe that Vision Tulsa supporters threatened to pull advertising, threatened to cut off any cooperation by city officials on future Fox23 stories, and threw some confusing but irrelevant information at station officials at the last minute -- confusing enough to convince station officials to hold off on the story until more research could be done.
Happily, the story's brief appearance online has pointed other news organizations to the sources of information that Maranon uncovered, and now Jarrell Wade of the Tulsa World has a front-page story today on the Creek Nation's unwillingness to fund the dam. We look forward to further coverage of the story, and we'll also post the full text of the relevant public documents and offer further comment here at BatesLine in the days to come.
We can hope that Fox23 management will realize that they were played by the Vote Yes forces and lost a great scoop as a result, spiking a story that reflects serious journalistic effort and investigative depth. May it only make the Fox23 team more aggressive in exposing dishonesty, obfuscation, and misdirection by public officials.
You saw it here first, back on February 25. BatesLine broke the story of maximum or near maximum donations by 16 executives and employees of ISTI Plant Services to Tulsa County sheriff candidate Vic Regalado, many of them of apparently modest means.
On Tuesday, officers of the Tulsa County Democratic Party issued a press release to request the Oklahoma Ethics Commission to investigate those contributors as possible "straw donors" -- giving money on behalf of someone else as a way of evading legal limits on campaign contributions.
TULSA DEMOCRATIC PARTY REQUESTS IMMEDIATE INVESTIGATION OF POSSIBLE STRAW DONORS TO REGALADO SHERIFF'S CAMPAIGN.
Today the Tulsa County Democratic Party made a formal request for an immediate investigation to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission (the agency that regulates political campaign contributions) and to other Oklahoma law enforcement agencies, including the Tulsa and Rogers Counties District Attorneys and the the Attorney General, of possible straw donors to the Vic Regalado for Sheriff Campaign.
Recent media reports have called into question more than a dozen substantial contributions to the Regalado campaign, made by employees of ISTI Plant Services, a Rogers County based Port of Catoosa manufacturing concern. The contributions total approximately $40,000 and make up about 25% of the campaign's primary election receipts. ISTI employees and their spouses contributed the maximum or near maximum of $2700 each. Most of these donors live in modest middle or working class housing. Several of the spouses do not work outside the home. One donor is a twice convicted felon who had his tax refund intercepted because he could not pay his fines and had to arraign for $50 a month payments. Several of the donors live in Rogers County or are not even registered voters. It is very unusual for such individuals to give such large amounts, strongly suggesting others provided the funds, others who must have maxed out on donations.
Jo Glenn, Tulsa Democratic Party Chair stated with regard to the ethics complaint: "It is time for the light of day to shine on where these donors got the funds to make maximum contribution in a local Sheriff's race. The authorities need to ask the tough questions and examine the financial records of these individuals to make sure they are contributing their own funds and not the funds from some other affluent supporters."
Tulsa County Democratic Party Vice Chair Greg Bledsoe said: "The strong circumstantial evidence leads to just one conclusion: someone else other than the contributor supplied the funds. Someone is trying to buy this election. The Tulsa Democratic Party calls on the Vic Regalado Campaign to return the questionable funds immediately."
Candidate Regalado crashed the Democrats' press conference and played the race card (more precisely, the ethnicity card) to question the motives of those making the accusations:
Regalado called the ethics investigation request "political posturing at its best" and said he welcomes any investigation. He said those donors "are excited about the prospect" of the first Hispanic sheriff to be elected in Tulsa County.
"I truly believe this is the political equivalent of racial profiling," Regalado said.
As Greg Bledsoe noted, not all of the donors in question have Hispanic surnames, and there was, as BatesLine reported previously, a similar cluster of large donations from ISTI-connected donors to Tulsa County District Attorney candidate Brian Crain, who is not Hispanic as far as I am aware.
Regalado is either naive or disingenuous to claim that this request for an investigation is "the political equivalent of racial profiling" and to claim that there's no probable cause to investigate. As a conservative Republican, I've had enough of people playing the race card to deflect valid criticism of the policies and ethics of elected officials. I will not vote for a candidate to be the top law enforcement officer in our county if he hurls unfounded accusations of racism and pretends not to see a pattern that hints strongly of illegal activity.
The reason we're having a special election for sheriff is because the previous sheriff, Stanley Glanz, was beset of accusations of donors buying their way into the reserve deputy program, with the sheriff turning a blind eye to irregularities in certification. Chris Miyata, commenting on Facebook, wrote:
Let's get out the Glanz playbook.
- Accept excessive funds by those who wish to have a strong influence over the Sheriffs department.
- Only speak out against allegations of corruption, when the outside entity that brought corruption to the department faces legal punishments for their action.
- Use direct and indirect intimidation to silence critics
When corruption goes unnoticed until the threat of punishment looms overhead speaks to either being complacent in addressing ethical problems or complicit. Neither is an attribute that I'd like to see in our new sheriff.
Joe Chandler commented on the same thread:
I'm more conservative than you'd believe, but this "Republican" is an embarrassment. If he can't see that there is reason to take a hard look at all that cash coming from one, almost unanimous group formed by the employees of one small company, he's not much of an investigator. Couple that with what must have felt like an intimidation attempt in his showing up at the meeting and we have a problem.
While I was disappointed in Luke Sherman's loss in the March 1 special primary, I was open to the possibility that Vic Regalado could be a decent sheriff, despite the heavy giving from the local powers that be and this odd cluster of giving from people connected with one Rogers County company. Regalado's actions and statements at the press conference on Tuesday have convinced me that he is the wrong man for the job. Whether Regalado wins or loses on April 5, I'll be voting for Luke Sherman in the June primary for the next four-year term.
UPDATE for the primary for the full-four year term: Luke Sherman has been endorsed by four of the other candidates in the special election primary, and he continues to have my support.
The race to fill the unexpired term of former Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz has been a strange one for me. It's one of the few local races where I knew none of the candidates before the election, and I've only met two of them during the course of the campaign.
It's a strange election for everyone. The election is only for the term ending at the end of this year. Within a couple of weeks after the general election results are in, it will be time to file to run for a complete four-year term.
Today, Tulsa County Republicans will pick one of nine candidates to face the lone Democratic candidate, Rex Berry, in the April 5, 2016 special election. After listening to Pat Campbell's interviews with the candidates on KFAQ, reading the Tulsa 9/12 Project's candidate questionnaire, and listening to most of KRMG's debate, I've decided to vote for Luke Sherman to be our next Tulsa County Sheriff.
I've thought for quite a while that we needed an experienced lawman from outside the TCSO and the culture that had been so damaged by Glanz's failed leadership. That eliminated a few of the candidates.
Because this primary is first-past-the-post with no runoff, campaign strength had to be a tie-breaker among similarly qualified candidates.
I eliminated Vic Regalado almost immediately. The large number of high-dollar contributions from high rollers and the mysterious cluster of max or near-max contributions from executives and employees from one company is worrisome. Why so much interest in this candidate? What are they expecting from him? At the KRMG debate, when asked about his executive/administrative experience, important for a position that oversees dozens of deputies, jail officers, and other employees, Regalado talked vaguely around the issue. He could cite no concrete qualifications in this area.
John Fitzpatrick has an impressive resume outside of law enforcement, but his service in law enforcement has been limited to the TPD reserve officers' program. I'm also concerned about a developer and a developer's attorney among his prominent donors and endorsers: Joe Westervelt and Lou Reynolds. Do you suppose that foreclosures and the sheriff's power to appoint appraisers have anything to do with this?
A number of my friends are supporting Tom Helm. What crossed him off my list was an answer he gave Pat Campbell (about 10 minutes in) about why it took Eric Harris's death to bring problems in the TCSO to light. Helm said that people in the organization raised concerns. He said he was told that he would "have to deal with it." Evidently that's what he did. He left the sheriff's office, but opted to say nothing publicly that might have exposed the rot. He seemed to be rationalizing the decision to protect his paycheck by keeping his mouth shut. Hardly a profile in courage.
I've been most impressed by Luke Sherman. From his website, here's a summary of his experience as a Tulsa Police officer:
He has served in many roles during his 23-year decorated career with the Tulsa Police Department. He joined the department in September of 1992 and has been an officer, field training officer, supervisor, field training supervisor, academy instructor and firearms instructor.
In 1995, Luke was selected to join the department's SWAT team, where he served as a tactical operator, assistant team leader and finally as the assistant team commander. During over a decade on the team, he took part in many successful high-risk missions.
As a corporal (1998) among other assignments, he led a successful city-wide task force targeting the rise in methamphetamine production, usage and sales. As a sergeant (1999), he has supervised field units and specialty squads throughout the city.
Since 2008, he has led the department's very active Fugitive Warrant's Unit and also is one of the leaders of the U.S. Marshal's Violent Crimes Task Force. Both of these units are responsible for the arrest of thousands of violent criminals related to on-going high profile investigations, as well as fugitives from the Tulsa area and from other parts of the U.S. He led a multi-divisional police operational group during the Good Friday shootings (2012), the Best Buy shooting (2012) and a "Stranger Abduction" of a 8-year-old girl in east Tulsa (2014). Luke's unit was successful in identifying, locating and arresting the suspects in these three high profile cases.
Luke is a nationally recognized figure to law enforcement communities across the United States and in several other countries. As a director for the National Tactical Officer's Association (NTOA), Luke has played a pivotal role in assisting and providing subject matter expertise to members of both the U.S. Senate and U.S. Congress in topics such as the Ferguson riot incidents and the topic of the militarization of police forces. As an instructor for the NTOA, he has provided nearly 5000 hours of instruction in topics such as active shooter, hostage rescue, high-risk warrants, civil disturbance, barricaded gunman, legal considerations in policing and SWAT, civil disturbance, team leader and command-level decision making.
Sherman's answers to questionnaires and his interview responses indicate intelligence and thoughtfulness. His responses to the Tulsa 9/12 Project showed an awareness of the non-law-enforcement aspects of the job. I was pleased to see this in one of his replies: "I am also looking into partnerships with other local agencies and redirecting some excess earmarked ad valorem funds that are not being used by Tulsa Technology Center and Tulsa Community College." While this will require considerable political capital, there is no doubt that the earmarked millage levies enjoyed by TTC and TCC provide them with more than enough money; elected county officials should give voters the opportunity to reduce the TTC and TCC levies and find a way to shift that revenue stream to more productive uses.
An honorable mention goes to Jason Jackson, who has an impressive record of service of nearly 20 years with the Jenks Police Department, degrees in criminology and religious studies from Liberty University, and experience as a pastor. Jackson also has given solid answers in interviews and questionnaires.
I've endorsed Sherman over Jackson because I think Sherman is better placed to beat well-financed but less-desirable candidates in this first-past-the-post primary, and because I think service in leadership roles in the police department of the state's second largest city is better training for sheriff of the second largest county than leadership in a small city's police force.
I encourage you to join me in voting later today for Luke Sherman for the Republican nomination for Tulsa County Sheriff.
Why are the executives and employees of a Rogers County manufacturing company, many of whom don't live in Tulsa County, so passionate, so willing to give sacrificially in support of a candidate for Tulsa County Sheriff?
An odd thing about Vic Regalado's campaign contributions report: A surprising number of max or near-max donors to Regalado's campaign are associated with ISTI Plant Services: President, CFO, CIO, managers, supervisors.
Some examples: Glen Cole, "Compliance ISTI Plant Services," and Lisa Cole, both of 1610 E. 32nd Pl., valued at $201,500, each gave the maximum $2,700 to Regalado. Manuel Sigala, "Supervisor ISTI Plant Services," and Olga Sigala, both of 3836 W. Ft. Worth St., Broken Arrow, each gave $2,700 to Regalado. Their home has an appraised value of $165,000. Levi Gonzalez, whose job and employer are listed as "Purchasing ISTI Plant Services," and Jacquelyn Gonzalez, both of 1169 N. 172nd East Ave., each gave $2,500 to Regalado. That address has a Tulsa zip code but is in Rogers County and the Catoosa city limits, with an assessed market value of $187,256. Justin Gonzalez, "Supervisor ISTI Plant Services," and Jessica Bledsoe, both of 1143 N.171st East Ave., which has an assessed market value of $92,788, also each gave $2,500 to Regalado. It's unusual for wealthy people to max out for a candidate, particularly a local candidate. It's almost unheard of for middle-class people to give on the order of 2-5% of their home's value for any candidate.
By my count, ISTI Plant Services employees and their spouses/housemates contributed $42,050, or about 25% of Regalado's total, and all on February 12. That's quite a coincidence.
ISTI Plant Services has offices in a former wedding chapel on 21st Street west of Lynn Lane, but its principal manufacturing facility is at the Port of Catoosa in Rogers County. ISTI was originally an acronym for Insulation Specialists of Tulsa, Inc. From their "about" page, here's what ISTI Plant Services does:
From small single skid units to an 80 module Sulfur Recovery Unit processing 500,000 tons annually, ISTI Plant Services has vast experience in all types of field construction, including civil, structural, piping, fabrication, prep and painting, insulation, heavy rigging, instrumentation and electrical.
Our team of managers, supervisors and foremen has over 150 years of combined plant construction experience, and are committed to detail, precision and 24/7/365 customer service.
Not only do we build industrial plants, we also build solid partnerships with our clients. We are proud to enjoy a nationwide reputation of being uniquely capable, always allocating the right resources to the right job, while meeting our clients' budget and schedule.
Santiago Barraza, then listed as president of the company, was also a max donor to Tulsa City Councilor Connie Dodson, a max donor to Jeb Bush, and a max donor to T. W. Shannon, A. H. Strategies' candidate in the 2014 U. S. Senate race to replace Tom Coburn. Barraza also maxed out for Dewey Bartlett for Mayor in 2013, Judge Kurt Glassco's campaign for re-election in 2014, and Michael Brooks-Jimenez, 2014 Democrat candidate for Senate District 44. Barraza's name is listed as owner of 19 properties in Tulsa County, according to the Tulsa County Assessor's Office website. (UPDATE: Barraza also maxed out to Brian Crain for District Attorney, but his name was misspelled in the disclosure. Brian Crain's donors in the first quarter of 2014 also included a large number of generous ISTI executives and employees, many of whom live outside Tulsa County.)
Vic Regalado is clearly the Tulsa establishment's preferred candidate for Tulsa County sheriff. He has raised more funds than all of his opponents combined. Many people named Siegfried have given large amounts of money to his campaign. Regalado is a client of AH Strategies and Majority Designs. The near unanimity of Tulsa's insiders makes me wonder why they've chosen him and what they expect from him.
But what really has me puzzled is why so many people from one company, with no apparent political interest in the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, would dig deep into their savings to support a candidate.
Many thanks to the Tulsa County Election Board for providing scans of the campaign contribution filings for the candidates in the special election for Tulsa County Sheriff.
(For a brief shining moment, campaign reports for candidates and committees in the state's largest counties were filed electronically with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, just like candidates for statewide, legislative, and judicial offices. Evidently county officials didn't like that level of scrutiny, so we're back to handwritten, dead-tree reports. I appreciate Election Board staff dealing with all this extra work, particularly as they still have early voting and an election next Tuesday to produce.)
Notable vendors and donors are listed along with money raised and spent as of February 15. Vendors and donors are located in Tulsa County unless otherwise noted.
- Rex Berry: 1/28/1950, 2300 Riverside #4A, Tulsa, OK 74114. Raised $2,820.00. Spent $1,904.20. Notable donors: Mary Ellen Jones ($500), Rex Berry ($350), George Krumme ($250), Heart of the Party FDWC PAC ($200). Notable vendors: Hardesty Press (printing).
- John Fitzpatrick III: 5/18/1956, 8109 South 70th East Place, Tulsa, OK 74133. Raised $ 40,110.16. Spent $ 35,370.09. Notable donors: Mary Ann Townsend ($2,700), Joe Westervelt ($2,400), Jonathan LaRue ($2,000), Roger Chasteen ($1,500), HR Siegfried ($1,000), Charlie Stephenson ($1,000), Jonathan Helmerich ($500), Lou Reynolds ($500), John Cowan ($500), Sally McCoy ($500), William Fournet ($500). Notable vendors: The Woodland Group (campaign consulting), All Things Jeep, San Jose (signs), Signs Now (car signs), Walsh-Barnes Interactive (campaign consulting), Edge One Signs (signs), HPPC, Harrah OK (campaign consulting).
- Tom Helm: 11/10/1972, 10 N Greenwood Ave N206, Tulsa, OK 74120. Raised $32,116.78. Spent $24,275.92. Notable donors: Linda Merbell ($2,500), Pete Kourtis ($2,000), Jake Reid ($2,000), Jeff Organ ($2,000), Greg Simmons ($2,000), Rouven Irom ($2,000), Farmer Sinclair ($1,250), Susan Kimball ($1,000), Terry Withers Adair, Coweta ($1,000), Alana Reed ($1,000), Michael Dwyer ($1,000), Georgene Dwyer ($1,000), Marlin Warren ($1,000), Marshall Kelley ($1,000), Fred Cotton, Sapulpa ($1,000), Jim Richie ($705.45), John Bruton ($500), Phil B. Albert, Claremore ($500), Matthew McCullough ($500), Mark Cohlmia ($500), John Kelley Warren ($500), Lyndall Cole, Oklahoma City ($500), Claire Lee ($500), Jeff Beach ($500), Greg Dark ($500), Herb Weaver ($500). Notable vendors: Jeff Organ (printing, shirts, bus), Community Spirit magazine (advertising), QuikPrint (banners), Matrix Services (advertising), Oldham Signs (yard signs), Leon's Smoke Shack (reception).
- Brandon Hendrix: 7/14/1973, 9410 E. 107th Pl. S., Tulsa, OK 74133. Raised $3,600, spent 1792.27. Notable donors: Self. Notable vendors: KXOJ (radio ads), Townsend Marketing (shirts). Spartan Signs (yard signs).
- Jason Jackson: 8/8/1973, 1039 East 165th St. South, Glenpool, OK 74033. Raised $ 9,165.00. Spent $ 6,470.39. Notable donors: Lisa Carver ($1,000), Rocky Fisher ($1,000), Mark Tedford ($500), Steve & Linda Eaton ($500), Steve Beck ($500), Josh McFarland. Notable vendors: WinMail (printing), Oldham Signs (yard signs).
- Dan Miller*: 11/3/1965, 6617 S. 112th East Ave, Tulsa, OK 74133. Raised $ 4,211.36. Spent $ 3,270.67. Notable donors: Michelle Bowdle ($1,000). Notable vendors: Tulsa Direct Mail (printing); Ramond Walker (website services); Republican Party of Tulsa County (event fee).
- Randy Pierce: 5/15/1961, 2155 S. Fulton Pl., Tulsa, OK 74114. No funds raised. ("Turned down and returned contributions @ $71,250.00 & 3 major fundraiser events. No indirect contributions received.") Spent $1,411. Notable vendors: Vista Print (campaign cards), Edge One Signs (yard signs).
- Bill Reaves: 6/20/1949, 5301 E 53 Pl, Tulsa OK 74145 (no report filed)
- Vic Regalado: 6/18/1971, 6811 Silver Oak Pl, Tulsa, OK 74107. Raised $158,120.00. Spent $103,608.87. Notable donors: ECM PAC ($5,000), ROI PAC ($5,000), Dianne Siegfried ($2,700), Sherri Hader, Oklahoma City ($2,700), Sandra Barraza ($2,700), Santiago Barraza ($2,700), Lisa Cole ($2,700), Glen Cole ($2,700), Daniel Sigala ($2,700), Nikki Sigala ($2,700), Stephen Scott ($2,700), Leslie Melvin ($2,700), Manuel Sigala ($2,700), Olga Sigala ($2,700), Terry O'Donnell, Catoosa ($2,700), H. Max Felton ($2,700), Pam Felton ($2,700), Johnnie Reaves ($2,700), Leigh Reaves ($2,700), Sylvia Nelson ($2,700), Robert Nelson ($2,700), Kevin Hern ($2,500), Levi Gonzales ($2,500), Jacquelyn Gonzales ($2,500), Elida Cepeda ($2,500), Marcele Cepeda ($2,500), Jessica Bledsoe ($2,500), Justin Gonzalez ($2,500), T. Hastings Siegfried ($2,300), Sooner Medical Staffing LLC, Oklahoma City ($2,000), Charles McCall, Atoka ($2,000), Adam Weintraub ($2,000), Reuben Davis ($2,000), Roger Chasteen ($1,500), Debbie Hinch ($1,500), Gregory Wilson ($1,500), Phillips Breckenridge ($1,500), F. William Teale Jr ($1,500), Mike Case ($1,500), Thomas Naugle ($1,500), Barbara Anne Naugle ($1,500), Christopher Kannady, Oklahoma City ($1,500), Jon Stuart ($1,000), John B. Turner ($1,000), Fount Holland, Oklahoma City ($1,000), James M. Leewright II, Sapulpa ($1,000), Frazier Henke ($1,000), Paul Brunton ($1,000), Patsy Hepner ($1,000), Jeanne McGowen, Comanche ($1,000), Michael Peyton ($1,000), Steve Middleton ($1,000), Kenneth Brune ($1,000), Meredith Siegfried ($1,000), Milann Hastings Siegfried ($1,000), Jack Allen ($1,000), Frank Murphy ($1,000), Tom Clark ($1,000), John Nickel ($1,000), Sanjay Meshri ($1,000), Bailey Siegfried ($1,000), Lee Levinson ($1,000), Terrell Siegfried ($1,000), Preston Doerflinger ($1,000), Gilmore Caswell ($1,000), Chip Keating, Nichols Hills ($1,000), Arlo DeKraai ($1,000), Brooke Yaffe ($800), Mitch Adwon ($500), Phyllis Lauinger ($500), John Hewitt ($500), Garry Anderson ($500), Timothy Bracken ($500), K. Neal Jackson ($500), Paul Lackey Jr. ($500), Michael Haynes ($500), Albert Givray ($500), Robert Merrick ($500), Tom Biochini ($500), Phillip Hawkins ($500), State Sen. Michael Mazzei ($500), Buddy Padilla ($500), Gary Crews ($500), G. M. Bunney ($500), William Allen ($500), Robert Biolchini ($500), William Warren Jr. ($500), Tammy Hern ($500), Michael Cooke ($500), Robert Berry ($500), Stephen Andrew ($500), Stephen Clouser ($500), Clark Brewster ($500), Joe Cappy ($500), Stephen Clouser ($500), Michael Huff ($500), Phil Albert, Claremore ($500), Paul Cornell ($500). Notable vendors: AH Strategies (campaign consulting), Majority Designs (campaign consulting), Quick Print (printing), Paw Moxie Threads, Duncan (t-shirts), Oldham Sign Shop, Bristow (yard signs), ROI Media Services (advertising media buys, $88,350),
- Luke Sherman: 11/27/1969, 1443 E 32nd Pl, Tulsa, OK 74105. Raised $ 36,930.00. Spent $ 25,490.08. Notable donors: Tom Russell ($2,700), Robert Zoellner ($2,700), Carrie Zoellner ($2,700), Mike Farley ($2,700), Mandy Farley ($2,700), Michael Henry ($2,500), Edward Wiegele ($2,000), John Greene ($2,000), State Rep. Jon Echols ($1,500), Jackie Keeler ($1,000), Gregory Wallace ($1,000) Mike Frizell ($1,000), Benjamin Kimbro ($1,000), Warren Ross ($1,000), Neal Tomlins ($1,000), Michael Barkley ($1,000), Barb Carson ($1,000), George Gibbs ($500), Daryl Woodard ($500), Don Kirt ($500), Philip Jackson ($500), Stuart McCalman ($250), Bill Sherman ($250). Notable vendors: Andrew Speno, Edmond (Media Consultant), Singularis Group, Overland Park, KS (printing), New Valley Forge Partners (video production, website), Brett Knaust (campaign manager), Target Marketing (banners, signs),
Bill Reaves appears not to be running an active campaign; he did not file campaign ethics reports and could not be reached by the Tulsa 9/12 Project or KFAQ.
The Tulsa 9/12 Project has published a voter guide for the Republican primary candidates for Tulsa County sheriff. Responses are organized side-by-side for each question.
KFAQ has posted the podcasts of Pat Campbell's interviews with Tulsa County sheriff candidates.
It's apparent that our public schools are headed in the wrong direction, and money won't fix what's wrong. If a train is going the wrong way on the track, shoveling more coal in the firebox only takes you further away from your goal faster. We must first elect board members who see that we're headed in the wrong direction.
At a recent school board candidate forum, one of the candidates rattled off a list of things that every child needs in order to learn -- a good night's sleep, three meals a day, appropriate clothing for the weather, "a parent that will make you go to bed at night, even if you don't want to." The candidate went on to indicate that the schools "have to educate the parents about the importance of sleep and routines" and then listed all the non-educational support that Tulsa Public Schools offers to students: breakfast, lunch, food to take home for the weekend, clothes. So this is the fruit of the Great Society and a half-century of Federal interference in local schools, by way of the carrot of federal funding and the stick of judicial activism -- two generations of parents who don't know how to manage their time and money to keep their children fed, clothed, and ready for school. What we're doing isn't working.
Although every school district in the state has at least one vacancy each year, most of them go unchallenged. In all of Tulsa County, only one board seat will be on the ballot this coming Tuesday, February 9, 2016. In election district 5, Republican challenger Stan Minor will face Democrat incumbent Cindy Decker. I live in the district, and I plan to vote for Stan Minor. Minor would bring to the job a deep love for the Tulsa school system, an understanding that TPS's current direction hasn't been working, and a businessman's perspective on the school budget. He understands that TPS cannot survive, much less thrive, if it continues to drain enrollment to suburban districts and other educational options.
Stan Minor is a petroleum landman. He attended Tulsa Public Schools all the way through, spending some time at Nathan Hale High School before graduating at Memorial High School. He has been involved for several years in an alumni fundraising committee for Nathan Hale.
Stan Minor wants to shake things up -- to "say no to the status quo" -- but in the nicest possible way. As a person, he is affable and positive, but he's saddened to see the decline in the Tulsa school system from his day, when everyone wanted their kids to a TPS school, to today, with declining enrollments and parents moving to the suburbs, enrolling their children in private schools, or educating them at home. Minor points out that enrollment matters in the state funding formula, and it wastes money to have so many school buildings, many of them renovated or with added features thanks to the generosity of taxpayers, running so far below capacity. Minor notes that enrollment is now near the level of 1952, about half the size of the system at its peak, and it's continuing to shrink.
Minor, who played football in junior high and high school, remembers how school sports helped create a sense of community within the school and connected a school with its surrounding neighborhood. All that added up to an emotional investment by students, parents, and patrons in their schools -- something that doesn't seem to exist any more.
Minor sees football as having a particularly important role in knitting together the school community at the beginning of each academic year, A competitive team can bring the whole school together -- players, marching band members, cheerleaders, parents, faculty, alumni, and neighbors, sharing the experience of cheering on the team. That school spirit carries on to other sports, music, drama, and other activities as the year rolls on. For neighbors and alumni, school spirit translates into volunteer involvement. For younger kids, it translates into an attachment to their future high school. All of that can
Community spirit is nothing without educational excellence. Minor opposes Common Core, with its extreme focus on high-stakes testing and the straitjacket it places on teachers. (His opponent is backed by pro-Common Core pressure groups like Stand with Children.)
Stan Minor supports fairness in magnet school admissions. He argues that admission to academically competitive magnet schools (Carver MS, Washington HS, Edison MS and HS) should be by lottery among all applicants that meet the academic qualifications. The current system opens the door to favoritism.
Stan Minor is married and has a son and a daughter. While I've only recently gotten to know Stan, I met his son when he was a high school senior applying to MIT. His son has gone on to graduate from MIT and to a successful career in computer science.
The other candidate in the race, Cindy Decker, was appointed to the post a few months ago by the other members of the board. While she has an impressive resume, it seems fair to assume that they didn't pick her to shake things up. (There's a regrettable practice, for those offices where replacements are appointed, for the office holder to quit early and allow a like-minded successor to be appointed, giving the replacement the advantage of incumbency and depriving voters of an open election.)
Decker proudly wears her endorsement from Stand for Children, the group that lobbied the legislature to keep Common Core ("a wonderful group," she said), and Tulsa Regional Chamber, which endorsed Common Core in its OneVoice legislative platform and lobbied for Common Core at the Capitol.
When asked about the strengths of the Tulsa Public Schools, Decker could only point to the new superintendent, Deborah Gist, citing her resume, credentials, and the number of work. That's a common problem for leftists: measuring success by inputs, not outcomes.
Tulsa Public Schools desperately needs new leadership. If you live in Election District 5 (the yellow area in the map below), please go to your polling place on Tuesday and join me in voting for Stan Minor.
If you have questions for Stan Minor or would like a yard sign, call or text him at 918-605-8006 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Election District 5 stretches from the river to Harvard, 21st to 51st, plus 11th to 21st, Utica to Yale, and 11th to 41st, Harvard to Yale, and the part of precinct 68 south of I-44.