Tulsa Election 2016: March 2016 Archives

Danger: Low Water Dam Ahead

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.

MORE:

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.

A bald eagle perches on a sandbar, eating a fish he grabbed from the Arkansas River at Tulsa, January 2014

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.

Here's a link to the complete archive of the Arkansas River category on BatesLine.

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No_More_Dam_Taxes-logo.pngAmong 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.

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Immature bald eagle and hundreds of white pelicans perch on a sandbar and in the shallows of the Arkansas River at Tulsa, January 2014. Looking northwest from Helmerich Park toward the 71st Street Bridge and Turkey Mountain.

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:

URGENT NOTICE!

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:

Thursday
March 31, 2016
4 p.m.
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.

PLUS:

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.

Terry Young

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.

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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.

http://www.fox23.com/news/tulsa-dam-plan-dead-in-the-water/163489977

A person who saw the story on the Fox23 website when it was live reports that it was offline soon after.

FOX23-Tulsa_Dam_Plan_Dead-Live_404-01.png

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:

Places to Go in Tulsa: Tulsa dam plan dead in the water - KOKI FOX 23

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 ...

See Full Article

Dams Infrastructure News: Tulsa dam plan dead in the water | FOX23 - KOKI FOX 23

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 ยป

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.

Luke_Sherman-Sheriff-2016.pngIn 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.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Election 2016 category from March 2016.

Tulsa Election 2016: February 2016 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Election 2016: April 2016 is the next archive.

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