Tulsa City Hall: October 2004 Archives

Got first reports today of recall petitions circulating against Tulsa City Councilor Chris Medlock in an east Tulsa neighborhood. Of course, Chris Medlock doesn't represent east Tulsa; his colleague Jim Mautino, also the target of a recall effort, does. The canvassers are going door-to-door and telling people that Medlock wants to sell water to the suburbs for too cheap a rate. (In fact, Medlock is concerned that water rate from suburban water customers is lower than it should be.)

Word is that the recall gang was out Friday recruiting petition canvassers at OSU-Tulsa for $10 an hour. I have also heard that former Tulsa City Councilor John Benjamin, who now lives at 14235 S Toledo Ave in the City of Bixby, south of the river, is boasting that he is organizing the entire effort.

The timing and the cast of characters is interesting. Benjamin is known as a slavish supporter of the Tulsa Metro Chamber bureaucracy. Thursday night, the City Council voted 5-4 in favor of Medlock's Economic Development Commission reforms, rejecting a substitute proposal from the Mayor that would have gutted key reforms. The thrust of the reform effort is to have a City of Tulsa-based committee oversee the City of Tulsa hotel/motel tax dollars which are earmarked for the promotion economic development and attracting conventions and tourists, instead of just signing over the money to the Tulsa Metro Chamber, no strings attached. Sheraton Tulsa General Manager Jon Davidson, chairman of the recall effort, and until very recently vice chairman of the Tulsa Metro Chamber, was spotted in the gallery of the Council meeting during the EDC debate. The day after the EDC vote, the recall plotters are hiring petition circulators and the next day the petitions are out on the street (albeit the wrong street).

Combine all this with Tulsa Metro Chamber chairman Bob Poe's angry phone call to Mayor LaFortune after the Mayor publicly denounced the recall effort, and a picture begins to emerge: The Chamber bureaucracy and the oligarchs who control the Chamber board are out to punish Tulsa's elected officials for daring to hold the Chamber accountable for the $60 million in city tax dollars the organization has received and spent apparently in vain, given the state of Tulsa's economy, which continues to lag behind the national recovery. The Chamber bureaucracy could be a good partner with the city, could understand the need for more accountability, could humbly acknowledge its failure to deliver economic progress, but instead the Chamber Pots are lashing out like cornered rats.

I heard a story recently that illustrates the way the Chamber Pots operate. There's a new group called Young Professionals of Tulsa, whose aims include rediscovering and promoting the "people, places and things that make Tulsa original" -- to that end they're working to raise the money to reopen Nelson's Buffeteria and to revive the Greenwood Jazz Festival. The Tulsa Metro Chamber bureaucrats pushed to make YPT a branch of the Chamber, and when rebuffed, threatened to set up a rival young professionals group and to spread the word that it would be very unwise to join YPT instead of the Chamber's knockoff group.

That insatiable drive to kill anything it can't control is why "Chamber" is a dirty word to Tulsans from every part of the political spectrum, from every part of the city. Apparently that same spirit motivates this Chamber-led attempt to reverse the results of the last city election. They can't even wait a year for the next election. I have hope that the people of Tulsa have the good sense not to be swayed by the Chamber bureaucracy's selfish maneuverings.

NOTE: If you have any reports of recall petitions circulating, e-mail me at blog -at- batesline.com (replace -at- with @). If you can get video or audio or even still photos of the canvassers at work, so much the better.

A bit more regarding Sam Roop


Based on some response I've received to my earlier entry, concerning Tulsa City Councilor Sam Roop, his new business, and conflicts of interest, I want to emphasize a couple of things:

  • I am not saying that Sam Roop is guilty of anything or is trying to take unfair advantage of the city.
  • I am saying that there is a built-in conflict of interest between his company's business plan (which sounds like a great service with great potential) and Sam Roop's continued service as a Tulsa City Councilor, for the reasons I stated.
  • In saying that Sam Roop must resign, I am not saying he must resign in disgrace because he's done something wrong.
  • I am saying that in order to pursue this business without a conflict of interest, Sam Roop should follow the lead of many other public officials -- Rodger Randle, David Boren, Bill LaFortune, and Steve Largent are a few names that come to mind -- who left office early to pursue new career opportunities.
  • I am not really interested in what the lawyers have to say about this. I am concerned about divided loyalties tugging a councilor between his own financial interest and the public interest. The letter of the law is beside the point.

Roop must choose


Before I say anything else: Tulsa City Councilor Sam Roop is an honorable man. I have no reason to believe he has done anything deliberately to take advantage of his position as a Tulsa City Councilor, beyond using his knowledge as a long-time Councilor of who's who in City Hall, in order to steer city business to his new business venture. He has disclosed his involvement in a new business called American Technical Partners, which is seeking to provide computer networking services to the City of Tulsa. (See Tuesday's Whirled storyhere, jump page here.)

City Councilor Sam Roop said he had no problem asking the city to hire his startup company, American Technical Partners, to provide the city with the next generation of telecommunications technology.

"I realize there may be a conflict of interest because I'm a city councilor, but I have disclosed my interest in this group right up front," said Roop, who has raised potential conflict of interest issues with recent city board appointments....

After Roop had several meetings with employees of the city's Telecommunications Department, American Technical Partners submitted a proposal last month to study the city's options for setting up a wireless broadband communications network using WiMAX technologies.

The company asked for a fee of $25,000 to do the study. ...

"I'm in an unique position where I understand the technology world and the municipal world because I've been in both of them. I know what technology can do to save municipalities money," he said.

American Technical Partners is approaching not only Tulsa but many other cities in the state and in the country, he said.

(Emphasis added.)

It's the sort of thing former elected officials do all the time -- they use their knowledge of government to identify and develop goods or services that would be useful to the government they used to serve, and then they use their contacts and goodwill inside the government to help make the sale.

But Sam Roop is not yet a former elected official. And that is a distinction that makes all the difference.

To say that a public official has a "conflict of interest" doesn't mean that the person is evil or corrupt. It simply means that he is in a situation where what is in the public interest, which he has sworn to uphold, doesn't necessarily coincide with his private interests. It may be that the smartest, wisest, best money the City could spend would be to hire Sam Roop's company to setup broadband wireless networking, or it may be the stupidest idea ever. But either outcome would be fine for Sam Roop's company, once the city's check clears.

I'm sure Sam Roop would be scrupulous enough to avoid voting on awarding a contract with his own company. But the public interest demands more than avoiding such a direct conflict of interest.

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" wrote Jeremiah. A conflict of interest creates ethical blindspots. When considering a course of action for the City in his role as a Councilor, there will always be, simmering below the conscious level of Sam Roop's mind, some calculation as to the impact of his policy decision on his company's dealings with the City. At a conscious level this will cause him to discount information that would lead him to a conclusion that might hurt his relationships with the people who could make or break his firm. This will happen to Sam Roop, not because he is a bad person, but because he is human.

Our city government has gone through a tough couple of years, and the City Council has had to make some tough decisions -- freezing and cutting budgets, investigating inefficiency and possible wrongdoing at the city's airports, revisiting the city's water policy, to name a few. Every tough decision means the possibility of offending someone, often someone in management who would be in a position either to grease the skids or to block the path for a contract with Sam Roop's firm.

The mere appearance of a conflict will raise questions about Sam Roop's decisions, particularly on controversial issues, particularly when he has changed his position on a controversial issue. Tulsans will reasonably wonder: Why did Sam Roop suddenly see the wisdom of having Tulsa water customers pay for a new water line for Owasso? Sam Roop's company is trying to sell its services to "many other cities in the state." Owasso City Manager Rodney Ray is only human, and if Sam Roop, Tulsa Councilor, had voted to cut the line, Ray probably wouldn't be very receptive to a proposal from Sam Roop, entrepreneur. That thought may never have consciously entered Sam Roop's mind, but the question will always be there. The same questions will hang over whatever decision he makes on appointments to the water board or the investigation of the airport authority -- both authorities are potential customers of Roop's new company.

There's a further question, beyond a conflict of interest: Sam Roop met with employees of the Telecommunications Department, according to the story. According to the City Charter, Article 2, Section 19:

Except for the purpose of investigation under Article II, Section 17, of this amended Charter, the Council and Councilors shall communicate on matters of city business with the executive and administrative service solely through the Mayor, the heads of each division and department of the City, as well as such other persons as the Mayor shall designate.... Violation of this Section by any Councilor shall constitute willful maladministration and be sufficient grounds for removal from office as provided by the laws of Oklahoma.

This scenario -- a City Councilor meeting with city employees in the interest of personal gain rather than the public interest -- is precisely the sort of inappropriate influence this section of the charter is intended to prevent.

"No man can serve two masters," Jesus said, "for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other." Sam Roop cannot honestly do his job as a City Councilor and try at the same time to be a vendor to the City of Tulsa. Sam Roop is a good man, but he is a man nevertheless.

In his years as a councilor, Sam Roop has taken some stands that made people in city government angry. I have praised him in the past for being willing to make the right choice even if it meant offending someone. Our City Council majority has had the boldness to make the right choices in part because all five were immune from pressure on their employers. But now, as a businessman seeking to do business with city governments, Sam Roop can't afford to anger any city official, and that's going to blunt his effectiveness as a watchdog for the people of this city. He can't afford to anger the officials in other cities, and that's going to blunt his ability to champion Tulsa's interests when they conflict with the interests of other cities.

I like Sam Roop, and I'm happy for him that after a long stretch of unemployment, he has found a way to earn a living, a way that could be very lucrative. I wish him well in his new business. But as he pursues this new business, there is only one ethical way to handle his Council duties.

Sam Roop must resign from the City Council.

Reforms to the Economic Development Commission will likely be before the Tulsa City Council for a final vote this Thursday night. There was some controversy this last week over the composition of the Commission, particularly about the requirement to have at least one member of the EDC from each City Council district. Mayor LaFortune and several members of the current EDC objected to that provision, and at their urging, Councilor Chris Medlock, who is sponsoring the proposal, dropped it, which brought strong and understandable opposition from northside Councilors Jack Henderson and Roscoe Turner. (Whirled coverage here and here.)

I can understand wanting to bring together the best business minds in the City, wherever they happen to live. But the EDC will be developing a strategy for economic development for the City, and it's important that we don't neglect those parts of the city that are most in need of economic growth.

There are ways to ensure representation for all parts of Tulsa, while providing the Mayor with more flexibility in naming members of the EDC. One idea would be to designate broad areas, areas that have often been overlooked, from which at least one member must be chosen -- for example, at least one each from west of the river, north of I-244 (maybe at least two, as it's a larger area), and east of US 169.

Another approach would be to require at least one or two members to live in an area federally designated as underprivileged, designated for urban renewal, or designated as enterprise zones. These are areas where a lot of city, state, and federal funds are targeted for economic improvement, and we ought to make sure the people who live there are represented as economic development plans are drawn up.

I'm confident there's a compromise that can be reached that will ensure that all parts of the city are represented, so that these important reforms can move forward, and so that our own city government will again be in charge of our own city's economic development strategy.

Last Wednesday Tulsa City Councilor Chris Medlock got a call from a Tulsa Whirled reporter looking for comment on a story she was writing about that day's meeting of the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority (TMUA -- Tulsa's water board). The gist was that the head of the Southwest Tulsa Chamber of Commerce was claiming that Medlock was obstructing a new housing development outside the Tulsa city limits and outside Tulsa's fence line in the Berryhill area. This is an area that Medlock has proposed to bring within the City's fence line to ensure that Sand Springs or Sapulpa cannot annex it. You'll recall that Sapulpa recently extended its boundaries several miles to grab the Town West shopping center near the Turner Turnpike entrance -- an area just outside Tulsa's city limits. Mr. Gray wants the City to pay for part of the sewer extension to this new development, but he opposes the fence line extension to ensure that this area we help to develop ultimately ends up in the City of Tulsa's limits.

They ran the story Sunday, top of the page of the Local section. (Starts here, jumps here.) The story does a decent job of letting Medlock respond to the complaint. But the real story is that the Whirled's editors have decided to spotlight any complaint against Chris Medlock, no matter how trivial or baseless. A public official is bound to have at least constituents disappointed with some decision, but you would expect the newspaper to put those disappointments into perspective. Instead, the Whirled seems to have set aside space in its highest circulation edition for a weekly shot at the councilor who poses the biggest threat to the cozy deals of which the Whirled is so fond.

The bottom line on this particular issue is that Tulsa has a limited amount of money to pay for sewer line extensions and the City Council wants to prioritize connecting unserved areas that are already within the city limits.

Chris Medlock has posted the e-mail he sent to the Whirled reporter on the TulsaNow forums here. For your convenience, it's reproduced here after the jump.

Although it won't be voted on tonight, the proposed reforms to the City of Tulsa's Economic Development Commission is on the agenda for Council discussion during tonight's Tulsa City Council meeting.

The proposed reforms make a few changes to Title 5, Chapter 4 of Tulsa Revised Ordinances. You can see the current ordinance here. The intent is to have the EDC as the focal point of all the City's economic development efforts, whether they involve city departments, city trusts, or economic development work outsourced to the Tulsa Metro Chamber bureaucracy and other contractors.

I refer you back to an earlier entry, a collection of links to Tulsa Today's coverage of the Tulsa Metro Chamber's many years as sole-source vendor for economic development services to the City of Tulsa. The articles ask whether, after sending $60 million to the Chamber bureaucracy over the years, Tulsa now has a healthy and developed economy. It's time to change what we are doing, because what we have been doing hasn't worked.

Here are the significant changes:

  • Specific duties: The EDC will become specifically responsible for developing an economic development plan and overseeing the implementation of that plan.
  • Geographically-balanced membership: The EDC would go from as many as 21 members to 15 -- one from each Council district, 4 at-large (who could be non-Tulsa residents), and the Mayor and a Councilor selected by the Council to serve ex officio. All of the members (except the Mayor and the Councilor) would be appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Council. Geographical balance will ensure that the EDC will be concerned with the development of the entire city.
  • An open bidding process: In contracting for economic development services, the EDC must go through the standard bidding process used for other city contracts, where the EDC issues a request for proposals, explaining the criteria for winning the job, and bidders submit their proposals for evaluation. Instead of just signing over the hotel/motel tax revenues to the Chamber bureaucracy, the Chamber bureaucracy will have the opportunity to be a part of the competitive bidding process. The Chamber bureaucracy may get some of the work, or possibly all of it, but they'll have to compete to get it. Competition is a healthy thing. Other chambers, like the Southwest Tulsa Chamber and the Greenwood Chamber may get a share of the work to develop their own parts of town.
  • Oversight: The EDC will make quarterly reports to the Council. If EDC approves contracts over a certain amount, the contract must be reported to the Council, and cumulative contracts with a single vendor for more than $20,000 must also be reported (no getting around the reporting requirement by giving one contractor lots of small contracts). An EDC member could be removed -- for cause -- by a majority of the EDC or a majority of the Council.
  • No conflicts of interest: This is important: "No appointee shall have been a member of the Board of Directors, officer or employee of any entity awarded a contract by the Economic Development Commission within the twenty four months prior to confirmation by the Council." This will ensure that the EDC won't be a puppet of any organization that seeks to do work for the EDC. The language needs to be cleaned up a bit -- not clear if the twenty-four months provision refers to when the contract was awarded or when the appointee served on the board. And for completeness' sake, forbid commission members from serving on any such board during their terms of office.

Although these are sensible and modest reforms, the leaders of the Chamber bureaucracy are predictably unhappy about all this, because it means they will be answerable for the public money they spend, money they seem to feel entitled to spend anyway they like. The head Chamber bureaucrats and their supporters on the Chamber board will no doubt be there in force tonight to glare at the Councilors, particularly Sam Roop, whom they believe (wrongly, I think) they can influence to join the Cockroach Caucus in obstructing these reforms. It would be nice if tonight the Councilors could see the smiling faces of many ordinary Tulsans who believe it's time for this kind of constructive change to our economic development. I hope the Mayor, who has been advocating strengthening the EDC since he took office, will be there voicing his support.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Council chamber at City Hall.

Recall backers still in hiding



Still no word as to that list of 25 or so members of the committee seeking to oust Tulsa City Councilors Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock. At this point, we only know of the two names that were required to be on the ethics filing for the Coalition for Responsible Government -- the chairman, Jon Davidson, and the treasurer, Herbert Haschke. Maybe the other 23 are figments of someone's imagination. Or maybe they've vanished since last Tuesday.

I credit Mayor Bill LaFortune's clear and public statement last Tuesday opposing the recall with slowing the momentum of the effort. I've heard that Tulsa Metro Chamber Chairman Bob Poe called the Mayor after his statement and asked angrily "What did you do that for?" I think the recall backers expected to start a war between the Mayor and the Council that would not only help them topple the Council majority, but would also damage the Mayor, which I think is part of this group's hidden agenda. Instead, the Mayor and the Councilors have affirmed the need to move forward together, particularly to ensure the passage of a critical bond issue in February.

I've heard that Jon Davidson is continuing to try to recruit support behind the scenes. He is the GM of the Sheraton Tulsa Hotel, part of Regency Hotel Management. Regency CEO David Sweet may not be aware that the GM of his Tulsa property is involved in a controversial campaign to depose popularly elected councilors and that his employee is on the opposite side of the issue from the Mayor of Tulsa. If you'd like to make Mr. Sweet aware of this, here is the contact information:

Mailing Address/Main Phone Numbers:
Regency Hotel Management
3211 W Sencore Drive
Sioux Falls, SD 57107
Phone: (605) 334-2371
Fax (605) 334-8480

Starwood, the company that licenses the Sheraton name, may also be interested in the potential impact of Davidson's actions on the goodwill that its brand enjoys among Tulsans. Here is the corporate contact information:

Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc.
1111 Westchester Avenue
White Plains, NY 10604
Phone (914) 640-8100
Fax (914) 640-8310

Investor Relations Contact
Dan Gibson
Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs
Phone (914) 640-8100

Vince Sposato's passing last week stirred up memories of his last run for office, for Tulsa Water and Sewer Commissioner in 1986, by one of Sposato's opponents in that race, Stan Geiger:

I was saddened to read of the demise of Vince Sposato. I went to school with a couple of his kids (he had a bunch). I also ran against him once, in one of the most interesting elections in Tulsa history.

It was 1986, I believe. I had recently changed my voter registration to Republican, believing my views were more in line with that party than the Democratic Party I signed up with as an 18-year-old. Patty Eaton, Democrat, was Water & Sewer Commissioner---and generally considered untouchable in an election. She had signed up to run for another term, and drew no Republican challenger.

I thought it somewhat un-American to hold an election with only one name on the ballot. So I filed as a Republican.

Rude? See for yourself


The Tulsa Whirled devoted a front-page Sunday story to the charge that some of the Reform Alliance Councilors were rude in their questioning of Owasso City Manager Rodney Ray and Jenks Mayor Vic Vreeland. The Councilors involved say they were politely asking questions, some of which may have made the visiting officials feel ill-prepared to respond.

The Whirled has run similar stories in the past, trying to make the Councilors look vicious and intemperate -- for example, saying that Medlock and Turner "grilled" TARE appointee Stephen Schuller, when they simply asked where he worked and if he had any conflicts of interest. The televised replay of that committee meeting revealed the grilling to be a series of short polite questions that lasted at most five minutes.

So this appears to be just one more element of the public relations campaign aiming at ending the Reform Alliance's majority. It's a frequently-used Whirled tactic. The Whirled writers won't attack a public official on the issue that really matters to them, because they know that their positions on most important issues are unpopular. Instead they will fabricate a charge that seems like a reasonable concern, just enough to create a seed of doubt among the supporters of the public official. From some questions I've received, the tactic appears to be working. (Conservatives should understand by now that the same paper that is distorting the record to destroy Tom Coburn and other conservative Federal officials won't hesitate to use the same power for similar despicable purposes at the local level. But a surprising number of conservatives don't seem to have made the connection.

It's good that TGOV gives people a chance to see for themselves what happened. Last Thursday's Council meeting will be replayed on Tulsa Cable 24 tonight at 6 p.m. and tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m.

I'm mad, too, Vince


It was in the late '70s, and every day on KXXO AM 1300, Tulsa's first all news-talk station, you heard this gravelly voice intone, "I'm Vince Sposato, and I'm mad as hell!" -- followed by a minute of commentary on city government. Vince Sposato was a building contractor, a World War II vet, a father and grandfather, but he was known to Tulsans as an activist who wanted to fix what was wrong with city government. He ran seven times, as a Democrat, for streets commissioner, once for water and sewer commissioner. He never won, but he never stopped trying. And through his political efforts, he had, for a time, a daily radio commentary, just like Eddie Chiles. The station put out promotional bumper stickers, and once in a while you may still see a bumper sticker that says, "I'm mad too, Vince!"

The obituary in the Whirled mentioned that in the '60s, "he fought against urban renewal and the taking of people's homes without just compensation." I was thinking of that as I read Ken Neal's tribute to Sposato in Sunday's opinion section. I give Mr. Neal credit for not speaking ill of the dead, instead remembering him as a devoted family man and a colorful political character. Neal goes so far as to say this:

Granted, he was never elected to public office in Tulsa. Perhaps he was a bit too "New York" for Tulsa voters. In retrospect, I suspect that Tulsa missed a good chance to have a top-notch civil servant.

That made me wonder -- it would be a good project for someone with time to browse through microfilms and vertical files at the Central Library -- whether the Whirled had much praise for Sposato when he was actively involved in politics. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he was condemned as an obstructionist, an opponent of progress, because of his opposition to urban renewal.

Although we were of different parties, I honor Vince Sposato as a pioneer "troublemaker", asking questions and challenging assumptions, wanting City Hall to do its job well and for the benefit of all Tulsans. Citizens like Vince Sposato and Betsy Horowitz believed in Tulsa, believed it could be a better place, and wouldn't be satisfied with answers like "it's a done deal" or "we've always done it this way." For their trouble, these early activists were marginalized, treated as targets for ridicule. Rather than answer the concerns they raised, the establishment's response was to focus our attention on something different or eccentric about them to communicate to Tulsans that their concerns didn't deserve serious consideration. The same process continues today with a front-page story (written by a reporter who wasn't at the meeting) devoted to the charge that some of the City Councilors said mean things to the suburban officials who spoke at last Thursday's City Council debate on the Owasso water line.

Today's Reform Alliance councilors could learn a valuable lesson from Vince Sposato's passing: If you want the Whirled to say something nice about you, drop dead.

UPDATE: If anyone out there has audio of one of Vince's commentaries, or any stories about his political campaigns, drop me a line at blog at batesline dot com.

Owasso water line cuts in line


Getting caught up after some time away during my son's school's fall break:

After granting the Mayor three weeks to make his case, the Tulsa City Council voted unanimously to allow the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority (TMUA) -- the water board -- to issue $18.5 million in revenue bonds to pay for ten projects, including $4.725 million for Phase 1 a controversial water line to serve new development in the City of Owasso. The revenue bonds will be repaid from future water system revenues -- that means that all Tulsa water customers will be paying for the new Owasso line, not just those who stand to benefit directly.

The Owasso line -- officially called the North Annexation Area Water Line -- has been on a fast track. Until April of this year, the line wasn't a part of the City of Tulsa's Capital Improvements Plan (CIP). The CIP is the City's "to-do" list, and when the City decides to finance capital improvements, they look at this list to determine what to fund. $474 million is the estimated cost of all the water system improvements that have been identified and included in the CIP. (You can download this large PDF file of the CIP inventory. The water system section begins on page 8-35.

Most projects sit on the CIP for years without being funded. Inclusion on the CIP just means we know we need to get around to it some day. That's why it's remarkable that this Owasso water line has gone from being off the radar to fully funded in a matter of six months. The water line was added at the April 22, 2004, Council meeting, without much fanfare. It was approved with a long list of other items that were presented to the Council as routine clerical matters.

It is hard to understand why there has been such a rush to make this happen. There are no imminent plans to develop the area within the Tulsa fence line that would be served by the water line, and Owasso has the resources, thanks to funds earmarked for Owasso infrastructure in Vision 2025, to pay for the line itself. So why is this project being allowed to cut in line, ahead of dozens of other projects that would serve unserved areas within the city limits or that would benefit all users of the system?

The Reason Public Policy Institute (RPPI) is a think tank focused on using the discipline of the free market to make government services more efficient. RPPI has a paper on water-system pricing which recommends the use of system development charges, which would have those who would be served by a water line pay a one-time fee up front for the cost of building it, rather than having current customers pay for connecting new customers. This seems like a fair approach, and it's what Councilor Chris Medlock and others have been advocating.

So why the rush, and why not have those who stand to benefit directly pay for the line? About 2 hours and 50 minutes into the meeting, Deanna Oakley, a north Tulsa County resident, asked a very blunt question of Council Chairman Randy Sullivan. She asked him whether the rumor was true that he and two other councilors and Tulsa Metro Chamber Chairman Bob Poe stood to benefit financially from this water line extension. Sullivan gave a non-answer after several seconds of stunned silence. The rumor is that there are plans for a residential golf development at 106th Street North and 97th East Avenue (Mingo Road). One of Bob Poe's companies, Pittman Poe, developed Bailey Ranch in Owasso and Battle Creek in Broken Arrow, along with many other similar developments across the country. If true, the rumor would explain a lot of otherwise unaccountably frantic behavior on the part of Mr. Poe and the Cockroach Caucus councilors.

In the end, it was Councilor Sam Roop who cleared the way for the Owasso water line to be funded in this package. Without his vote, there were not enough votes to amend the package and replace the Owasso water line with a project that would serve Tulsa. The opponents of the Owasso line felt it was more important to move ahead with the other projects on the list than to hold them up in hopes of persuading Roop or other councilors to see sense on the Owasso line.

Appointments matter


The City Council moved ahead by a 6-3 vote last night with a new ordinance setting deadlines for the Mayor to make appointments to the City's Authorities, Boards, and Commissions (ABCs). The Whirled predictably ridiculed the idea in an editorial yesterday -- couldn't figure out how the citizens of Tulsa had suffered any harm from board members continuing to serve long past the expiration of their terms. I say "predictably" because the Whirled editorial board opposes the idea of popular sovereignty and accountability. They prefer a system as close to oligarchy as possible while still maintining some veneer of democratic process.

ABCs have substantial powers over land use planning and the operation of our city's water, sewer, and trash systems, and the airport. While some boards can only make recommendations for consideration by elected officials, other boards (particularly the boards of Title 60 trusts) have considerable power to commit public resources and set policy without review from our elected representatives. The only opportunity for these ABC members to be held accountable to the will of the people is when they come before the City Council for confirmation of their appointment or reappointment. None of these appointments are for life. Most are for terms of three or four years, but those terms are meaningless if appointees are permitted to serve for years beyond the expiration without facing the Council.

Norma Turnbo is a case in point. Her term on the Board of Adjustment expired 17 months ago, in May 2003. The BoA grants variances and special exceptions to the City's zoning ordinance -- decisions that can have a significant impact on property owners. If you don't like a BoA decision, your only recourse is to take it to District Court. No elected official has standing to review their decisions. There's a consensus that Norma needs to go, but nothing can be done unless the Mayor nominates a replacement. Even if she's renominated and rejected by the Council, we're stuck with her continuing to make important decisions, unaccountable to the people of Tulsa.

Congratulations to the Council on passing this ordinance. And congratulations to the Mayor as well -- this will give him some impetus to do what he wants and needs to do to on these appointments.

From Homeowners for Fair Zoning:


Date/Time: Thursday, October 14, 2004 at 6:00 P.M.

Two important pieces of legislation are on the agenda for this Thursday’s 6:00 p.m. meeting of the Tulsa City Council. (The Council meeting takes place in Francis Campbell Room/Auditorium adjacent to Tulsa City Hall on the North side.) The first proposes that the Mayor be required to promptly submit his nominees for positions on City commissions, boards and trust authorities upon vacancy or term expiration for the current office holder. See the legislation at: Prompt Mayoral Appointments Ordinance. Currently, the Mayor is trying to keep the status quo in place by refusing to submit new nominees for these important City positions. The second ordinance proposes a restructuring of the Economic Development Commission.

The Reform Alliance majority on the City Council is proposing that $200,000 of the $1,300,000 which was to be given to the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce be instead given to the Economic Development Commission. This is being done because the Chamber has a dismal record of promoting new business for Tulsa and, with the majority of its membership being from outside Tulsa, may not principally represent Tulsa’s interests. Giving the funds to the EDC is an experiment to see if they can do a better job. The Chamber’s President is outraged over this and he and the Mayor have tried to pack the EDC’s decision making body with Chamber members. Councilor Medlock has proposed a more balanced system for appointments to EDC which will spread the decision making body over Tulsa’s 9 Council Districts, one from each, 4 Mayoral appointees and the Mayor and one Councilor as ex-officio members. See the legislation at: Economic Development Commission Ordinance.

You are strongly encouraged to attend and show your support for this legislation. Both the news media and the Councilors take note of your attendance. In light of the dramatic efforts of the Tulsa World’s management to orchestrate a recall for two of these five honest City Councilors (i.e., Councilor Medlock and Councilor Mautino), it is important to let everyone know how proud you are of their efforts at bringing reform to Tulsa’s boards, commissions and trust authorities. Persons wishing to speak will need to determine which agenda item numbers have been assigned to this legislation prior to 6:00 p.m. and sign up to speak on that item. John S. Denney, Attorney for Homeowners for Fair Zoning, will be at the meeting and can let you know the agenda numbers. If you have questions or need assistance, he can be reached during the day at 918-742-5472.

Recall backers lay low


Still haven't seen that list of 25 backers of the recall. Perhaps with the Mayor's public opposition to the recall, they aren't sure they want to come out publicly. Eventually they will be public, when the ethics reports are filed.

Word is that Jon Davidson, chairman of the pro-recall committee, is still soliciting funds and public endorsements for his misguided cause. I wonder if his bosses at Regency Hotel Management in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, know and approve of his involvement, much less leadership, of this campaign. You might want to let the Regency folks know how you feel -- your appreciation of Medlock and Mautino and your disappointment in the Sheraton Tulsa's involvement. Here's the contact info:

Mailing Address/Main Phone Numbers:
Regency Hotel Management
3211 W Sencore Drive
Sioux Falls, SD 57107
Phone: (605) 334-2371
Fax (605) 334-8480

There's also a form for e-mailing a note on the contact page of the website, but a fax or snail mail letter will probably be more effective.

Mayor opposes recall


Thanks to Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune for speaking publicly and unequivocally in opposition to the effort to recall Councilors Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock. The Mayor spoke Tuesday at lunchtime at a press conference at the Fountains Restaurant, in front of the monthly luncheon of the Tulsa County Republican Women's Club with Mautino, Medlock, and Councilor Sam Roop. The Tulsa Whirled story (jump page here) quotes the Mayor at length. To the Whirled's credit, they put the story on the front page, albeit below the fold.

"It does not paint a true picture of the city of Tulsa," the mayor said at a news conference. "We, the citizens of Tulsa, have worked together to get where we are today. The recall hampers our efforts to find real solutions to the problems facing our city."

LaFortune said the city did not have time to spend on a protracted effort to recall the councilors.

"We do not need three, four or five months of argument," he said. "Instead, we should be using that time to work at City Hall to move Tulsa forward." ...

LaFortune said all members of the City Council "make decisions that they think are in the best interest of Tulsa."

"They are good men and women . . . Their hearts are in the right place for the city of Tulsa," the mayor said. "I do the same thing. I make decisions, which I believe are in the best interest of Tulsa."

Government should be "constructive, not destructive," LaFortune said.

"We may disagree, but removing elected officials from office should only be the solution chosen when there has been a crime or a breach of fiduciary duty," he said.

The mayor said he is not seeing public support for a recall.

"Just today I've been to three different groups and I've asked just average citizens what they think," LaFortune said before speaking at a luncheon of the Tulsa County Republican Women's Club. "To the person, they said it is not good for our city; we don't like seeing it."

LaFortune stressed that he continues to reach out to all nine councilors, encouraging them "to meet on common ground and use a democratic process to solve our differences."

The Mayor is exactly right when he says we don't have time to waste on this divisive issue. To push this issue, especially now, would be selfish and arrogant on the part of the recall supporters. It would be disastrous if a recall were on the same ballot as the general obligation bond issue. I'm glad he said publicly, on camera, and with Medlock, Mautino, and Roop next to him, that he opposes the recall in the strongest possible terms. That should send a strong signal to the organizers.

The press conference almost wasn't a press conference. It was scheduled to be held prior to the Women's Club luncheon, but when the Mayor and Councilors arrived only KFAQ was there, and KFAQ had been alerted by Medlock that the event would occur. Phone calls were made to other media outlets, and it was learned that none of them had received the press release that was supposed to have gone out that morning. So the press conference was delayed for half-an-hour to give reporters time to arrive. Only KTUL didn't show up.

There is concern that some of the Mayor's own staff was working to undermine the impact of the Mayor's statement by ensuring that it happened without the media present. The failure to issue the release may have been an innocent mistake, but it is a crucial mistake, one that could have undone all the good will rebuilt between the Mayor and the Council majority in the last couple of weeks, so crucial a mistake that he would be unwise simply to excuse it. While the Mayor is limited in his control over civil servants, he has the ability to hire and fire his personal staff, and he would be better served by someone loyal to his interests, rather than a holdover from the Savage administration.

I note that the Mayor's press release has not been posted with the press releases on the City of Tulsa home page, or anywhere within the Mayor's portion of the city website.

I assume that all six Republican councilors were invited to participate in the press conference. Wonder why Bill Christiansen, Susan Neal, and Randy Sullivan weren't there.

As we approach the hour for a City Council committee to consider an ordinance reforming the Economic Development Commission, I'd like to call your attention to the thorough reporting done by Tulsa Today over the years about the handling of our City's economic development funds. Here's a link to a Google search that turns up most of the relevant articles.

If you're wondering why many Tulsans involved in local affairs have no respect for the Chamber, these articles will help you understand.

Some excerpts from key articles:

In "Jobs Needed Now", from 2003, we learn how the Chamber's leaders plan to grow the economy. Here's some insight into the thinking of Chamber CEO Jay Clemens, who has taken over leadership of the economic development group temporarily, following the departure of Chamber VP Mickey "No Idea" Thompson to Bixby:

Also, as a staff driven organization, the head of the staff is the ultimate boss and according to the New York Times, Jay Clemens, Executive President and CEO of the Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce once said a company’s plan to bring 500 new jobs into an area where he held a similar position would “unrealistically drive up wages.” Not a quote to inspire workers of any community.

And here's an evaluation of the Chamber's overall approach:

For the last twenty years or so the primary publicly funded local economic development effort has been conducted by the Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce at a cost of over $70 million. Any local expenditure for that long at that level begs the question of value received. Is Tulsa now economically developed and a center for conventions and visitors? That is the objective of the annual contract the Chamber executes in behalf of the City of Tulsa at a rate of approximately $3 million per year. If they are not doing the job, should we fire them?

A few months ago, Chamber Senior Vice President Mickey Thompson took questions at a meeting of the Republican Men’s Club where he publicly asserted that “big business is more important to Tulsa’s economic development than small business.” The crowd groaned as most knew that statement to be false. Big business is defined as more than 200 employees, but the backbone of Tulsa’s economy has always been small business. Economists by the thousands will testify that small business generates faster higher quality economic growth than big business.

Chamber officials promised to diversify local economic development efforts after the oil crash in the mid-eighties, but surprise … they did not.Now with the severe local depression within energy, telecommunications, and aviation they are not even promising a different approach.

"Chamber in Decline", from earlier in 2003, reports on the Mayor's plans to scrutinize the city's economic development efforts. I don't recall hearing whether this blue ribbon panel was ever actually empaneled.

In his budget presentation May 1, Mayor Lafortune spoke of the importance of economic development and convention and visitor solicitation efforts saying, “We have many agencies, organizations and city departments who work on economic development, but most do so on their own without a coordinated plan among those entities. Of course, the Tulsa Metro Chamber has the lead on Tulsa’s economic development efforts and receives significant funding from our hotel and motel taxes to accomplish this task. At this critical time in Tulsa’s history, with the economy being the victim of so many hard hits, it is crucial that we go forward with the very best economic development plan possible. With this end in mind, I have asked former city councilor Dewey Bartlett to chair a Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Panel of some of Tulsa’s best business leaders to review the City’s economic development efforts and provide recommendations as to how we can improve, and even consolidate these efforts.”

The article also gives us a glimpse of the inner workings of the Chamber, centered on Chamber CEO Jay Clemens, who does not live in the City of Tulsa, and reports on the Chamber's sales pitch to prospective members:

Last year, Tulsa Today, Inc. considered membership in the Chamber and was visited by such a sales person. She asserted that the Chamber “runs” Tulsa, a surprise to gathered Tulsa Today staff. For anyone knowledgeable of public policy issues, that was an assertion of public corruption. The Chamber is a private lobby group and while they may contract with the City of Tulsa to execute specific functions, they do so only at the will of public officials legally elected by the will of the people as outlined in the United States and Oklahoma Constitutions.

And here's an article from 1998 about the hotel / motel sales tax fund and whether the Chamber was effective at what it had been hired to do.

Tuesday's Tulsa City Council committee agenda is full of interesting topics: Economic development oversight, appointments to authorities, boards, and commissions; a change to the noise nuisance law; a change to the zoning code regarding modular housing; and a rezoning at 15th & Utica. If you have time, this would be an interesting day to see what's going on at City Hall.

Two items that address recent controversies will be considered in the Legislative and Public Safety Committee meeting at 1:30 p.m. (All committee meetings take place in the conference room on the 2nd floor of City Hall.)

An encouraging sign


Mikki spotted this earlier today, south of 41st on Sheridan, and I went back this evening to take the pictures.

A tip of the mortarboard to Community Care College for their show of support for Councilors Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock. Community Care College was named Small Business of the Year for 2004 by the Tulsa Economic Development Corporation.

Community Care College sign reads: Support Councilors Medlock & Mautino

Community Care College sign reads: Say NO To Recall

Several people have emailed in response to my comment about the various numbers being thrown around by Mayor and the FOP about the arbitration of police pay increases. FOP Lodge 93 has a website, and they have posted the text of the arbitration judgment here. They have a few comments at the top of the page, and have highlighted passages they find significant. Their home page has links to additional comments.

I haven't had time to read through it yet, but I wanted to give you a chance to read it yourselves. By the way, the Michael Bates mentioned in the text is Michael S. Bates, Director of Human Relations for the City of Tulsa, and no relation whatsoever to me.

Don Burdick, chairman of the Tulsa County Republican Party, emailed the following statement to me this morning about his meeting with the President and the Chairman of the Tulsa Metro Chamber, and asked me to post it. Here it is:

I would characterize my meeting with Jay Clemens and Bob Poe as a healthy discussion between business and political leaders. In very strong terms, I expressed my opposition to a recall effort for any City Councilor, or Mayor, simply based on policy disagreements. Mr. Clemens and Mr. Poe stated their primary concern was the business climate in Tulsa, and they believed some of Councilor Medlock's positions were detrimental to promoting regional economic growth. My recommendation was for a meeting between these individuals, hoping for a solution to the existing problems. We all agreed that attempting to resolve these differences through articles in the newspaper, on the radio, or on websites was not working... and that face-to-face discussion was the only way. The chance of success may be low, but for the good of Tulsa, it was worth trying. For the record, no chamber official offered to get Councilor Medlock any job for any reason. I left the meeting hopeful that a solution other than a recall effort could be accomplished, and was very concerned that if the recall effort continued, it's impact would be bad for Tulsa. I still have that hope.

I commend Don for trying to make peace and for his strong stand against recall, and he's right that a recall would hurt Tulsa. I'll save further comments for a later entry.

More notes on the recallers


Did some digging to learn more about Jon Davidson, the Chairman of the Coalition for Responsible Government 2004, which is backing the recall of City Councilors Chris Medlock and Jim Mautino.

The Whirled story mentions that he recently resigned from the board of the Tulsa Metro Chamber, but the October newsletter (PDF) still lists him as vice chairman of the Chamber for the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Davidson is general manager of the Sheraton Tulsa Hotel. I wondered whether the hotel's owners were aware that their employee is launching himself into a divisive political controversy that could hurt the hotel's image in the community. So I went to find out who owns the hotel.

The Sheraton Tulsa Hotel is not owned by Starwood, the parent company of the Sheraton brand. Behind the desk at the Tulsa Sheraton is this sign, which is probably required by the franchise agreement:

The Sheraton Tulsa Hotel is indpendently owned by Tulsa Garnett Hotel Ventures and operated by Regency Hotel Management under a license issued by the Sheraton Corporation.

Some further digging revealed that Tulsa Garnett Hotel Ventures and Regency Hotel Management are both South Dakota corporations, based in Sioux Falls, and owned by the Ramkota Companies. They acquired the hotel, formerly a Marriott, in 1995, renovated and rebranded it as a Sheraton, and installed Davidson as general manager in the fall of that year.

Here is the website for Regency Hotel Management, which currently features the Sheraton Tulsa on the website banner. A link on the home pages reads, "Regency Hotel Management & it’s [sic] affiliates own more than 60 properties in 21 states..." and when you click on the link, then click on the south central region, you will see that the Sheraton Tulsa is listed as one of those properties owned by Regency or one of its affiliates. David Sweet is the registered agent in South Dakota of Tulsa Garnett Hotel Ventures, LLC. Sweet is also the CEO of the Ramkota Companies, Inc., and of Regency Hotel Management, Inc. All three companies share the same registered address of 3211 West Sencore Drive, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Would a South Dakota-based hotel chain with 60 properties really want to be involved in a political controversy in Tulsa? I think it very unlikely that the home office in Sioux Falls has any idea of the controversy and bad publicity the manager of their only Tulsa property is going to be generating. Here is a link to their contact page. If you support Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock, you might want to let Regency CEO David Sweet know, as politely and gently as you can, that their Mr. Davidson is heading up an effort to overturn the election of two members of the City Council (elected with 55% and 59% of the vote, respectively), that you support these councilors, and that you don't appreciate Mr. Davidson's efforts to remove them.

UPDATE on an earlier item: I mentioned the connection between the Coalition's treasurer, Herbert P. Haschke, Jr., and Lou Reynolds, one of the two members of Tulsa's water board who was denied reappointment to the board by the Council majority. Haschke also has a connection to Jim Cameron, the other board member denied reappointment. Haschke and Cameron were co-incorporators, along with Ken Underwood, of IHCRC Realty Corporation, which was incorporated in 1996 and dissolved in 2000.

The Whirled's page one headline this morning (jump page here) is the formation of a PAC to prosecute a recall against Tulsa City Councilors Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock.

Come back later to read my comments on it.

Who's behind the recall?


The recall effort against two members of the Reform Alliance majority on the Tulsa City Council appears to be moving forward, with backing from leaders of the Tulsa Metro Chamber and an attorney with connections to R. Louis Reynolds, the real estate attorney whose reappointment to the city's water board was denied by the City Council majority.

Councilors Chris Medlock and Jim Mautino received phone calls Saturday afternoon from Tulsa Whirled reporter P. J. Lassek, asking for comment on news that an organization has emerged to push for a recall of Medlock and Mautino. The group is calling itself the Coalition for Responsible Government 2004, and the registered agents for the group are Herbert P. Haschke, Jr., and Jon Davidson. (UPDATE 10/10/2004: According to the Whirled's story, the group has filed as an issues PAC with Davidson as chairman and Haschke as treasurer.)

Here's what we know so far about Mr. Haschke. He is a member of the board of the Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy (TARE), which controls the city's trash system and the trash-to-energy plant. Haschke was first appointed to the board by former Mayor Susan Savage and confirmed on October 8, 1998, and reappointed by her in 2001. His term expired on July 1, 2004, and so far Mayor LaFortune has not reappointed him or appointed a replacement for him. Stephen Schuller and Sharon King Davis are two of his current colleagues on the TARE board. Lou Reynolds, the attorney who was rejected for reappointment to the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority (TMUA), served with him on TARE until Savage appointed Reynolds to the TMUA in January of 2002.

Haschke and Lou Reynolds have another connection. On March 27, 1995, Haschke, Reynolds, and David Cox incorporated The Commercial Real Estate Association of Tulsa, Inc. Haschke is also listed as registered agent for the association.

Haschke, 65, is registered to vote at 4311 East 68th Place. That address is on the same block as 4345 East 68th Place, the address at which City Council Chairman Randy Sullivan is registered to vote. (It is believed that since his divorce, Councilor Sullivan no longer lives at that address. Sullivan's current address is not known, but he has been spotted frequently in the 91st & Yale area, outside his district.)

Haschke is president of the board of directors of Hospice of Green Country. You can see a picture of him here. (The list of guests in that article is interesting -- a who's who of leading Democratic activists and donors, including Coleman and Sharon King Davis, Jim and Sally Frasier, Jim East and Kim Holland, Norma and Steve Turnbo. And Tracy Lorton Salisbury, daughter of Whirled publisher Robert Lorton, receives a prominent mention.)

Here's a Google cache of a Texas Monthly article that mentioned a Price Waterhouse partner named Herb Haschke, who was named in a 1990 lawsuit by Willie Nelson for leading Nelson, in the early '80s, to invest in tax shelters that proved to be financial disasters that only deepened Nelson's problems with the IRS. Tulsa's Herb Haschke is a tax attorney, so this may very well be the same person.

An interesting coincidence: A search of voter registration records turns up someone in Wagoner County named Terry Haschke Studenny. We don't know at this point if this person is related to either Herb Haschke or J. Richard Studenny, attorney for the Tulsa Industrial Authority, Tulsa Airport Authority, and Tulsa Airport Improvement Trust.

(Studenny's dismissal was to be considered last Thursday, but the special meeting of TAIT -- called by Mayor LaFortune -- had to be canceled for lack of a quorum, when board member Ron Turner was prevented from returning to Tulsa because of inclement weather.)

Jon Davidson is the Vice Chairman of the Board of the Tulsa Metro Chamber overseeing the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and he is general manager of the Sheraton Hotel Tulsa, a position he has held since the fall of 1995. Some of the City of Tulsa's hotel/motel tax dollars go to the Chamber for support of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Earlier this week, Tulsa Metro Chamber CEO Jay Clemens and Chairman Bob Poe (a lifelong Democrat) met for three hours with Tulsa County Republican Chairman Don Burdick, trying to persuade Burdick to support the recall of Republicans Medlock and Mautino or at least not publicly oppose their
recall. Burdick has publicly stated that he opposes any recall and worked to get the support of Republican elected officials for a statement opposing any recall. During the meeting the chamber officals suggested (perhaps in jest) that they should get a high paying job for Medlock so that he wouldn't spend so much time and work so hard at being a Councilor. Asked to comment on this, Medlock joked that if the job was to replace Jay Clemens, and it would get Clemens out of town, he might take the position. (UPDATE 10/11/2004: Don Burdick has sent me a statement about the meeting, which you can find here.)

Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

Let's you and him fight


Here the Reform Alliance on the Council and Mayor LaFortune are trying to work together to move the city forward, and KRMG seems to be trying to get the Mayor and Council to start fighting each other with a poll on their homepage that sets LaFortune against "Chris Medlock & 4 other city councilors". Here's the question:

What's Best For Tulsa? Chris Medlock & 4 other City Council members are calling for reforms; Mayor Bill LaFortune & the Tulsa Chamber say they're trying to stunt Tulsa's growth. Who's right?

The Mayor

When I voted, the totals were Medlock with 58%, the Mayor with 30%, and 12% undecided.

Interesting that they are singling out Medlock rather than referring to all five in the list of allowed answers. Also interesting that they say "The Mayor" for the second answer rather than "The Mayor and the Chamber."

You suppose someone out there has an interest in ensuring that the Mayor and the City Council majority never get along?

Studenny not fired?


There was a report that Richard Studenny, the attorney who works as a contract employee of the Tulsa Industrial Authority and the Tulsa Airports Improvements Trust (TAIT), would be fired today at a meeting of TAIT. It didn't happen, and the word is that the Trust didn't have a quorum present, because board member Ron Turner couldn't make it back from Chicago because of weather.

I apologize for the delay in posting this.

I started Tuesday evening at Tulsa City Councilor Jim Mautino's District 6 town hall meeting (written up here), then made it to Hicks Park about 20 minutes into Councilor Sam Roop's meeting. There were about 40 people there, plus a couple of news cameras, and I was pleasantly surprised to see Mayor Bill LaFortune sitting in the back row. A dozen or so were people I recognized as being from outside the district, there just to give Sam their support. Mona Miller of Homeowners for Fair Zoning held a sign saying "Sam's the Man!"

Councilor Roop's talk covered public safety, the proposed general obligation bond issue for infrastructure, and the negative impact that passage of the tobacco tax and the gambling propositions will have on city sales tax revenues. Mayor LaFortune expressed agreement that these propositions would hurt the city's bottom line.

Roop expressed support for the idea of taking a portion of the "third penny" and using it as a dedicated revenue source for police and fire. He or the Mayor (I forget who) pointed out that we are nearing the end of our sewer obligation -- an unfunded Federal mandate that has required us to dedicate a large portion of the third penny funds to sewer system improvements. As that obligation goes away, that could free up enough of the next third-penny to fund public safety and still fund the same amount of long-term capital improvements as in the past, without raising the overall tax burden.

Councilor Roop mentioned that he and the Mayor and some other councilors had had a meeting on Monday, and that there had been a frank but constructive exchange of views. When Sam yielded the floor to the Mayor, I think we got a sense of what was discussed.

The Mayor reaffirmed his opposition to any and all efforts to recall city officials and he spoke of signing a pledge to that effect and pledging to cooperate with the Council for the good of the city.

The Mayor expressed his agreement with the Council majority that candidates for appointment to authorities, boards, and commissions should provide full disclosure of any potential conflict of interest.

Regarding the issue of water lines to the suburbs, the Mayor praised Councilor Chris Medlock's idea that a higher rate of return on new water lines (13% instead of 10%) could compensate the City for lower sales tax revenue resulting from suburban retail growth, and could be used to build out the water and sewer system to connect areas within the city limits that are still unserved.

In speaking of the friction between the Council's Reform Alliance majority and the administration, the Mayor said there were times when the administration should have done a better job of getting responsive, relevant, and timely information to the councilors in response to their questions, and that he should have involved the Councilors before controversial matters like the north Tulsa County annexation proposal were made public. He said that the bond issue is an example of the right way to do it, meeting with Councilors early in the process to get their input.

The Mayor defended the new pay scheme for the police -- the arbitrator chose the City's plan rather than the FOP's plan. I found it hard to follow the figures without being able to see anything in writing. It would be nice to see a chart showing what the officers make now, what they would make under the administration's plan, and what they would make under the FOP plan, and all of it in dollars, not percentages, just to be clear. The Mayor pointed out the sacrifices that non-public safety city employees have made, and said we had to find some money to restore part of what they have lost over the last few years of shortfalls.

The Mayor and Councilor Roop spoke of a proposed charter change that would remove civil service protection for managers in city government above a certain level, basically those managers in a policy-making position, so that they would serve at the pleasure of the Mayor rather than be insulated from accountability by civil service protections. Right now, the Mayor has very little leverage to ensure that city departments are carrying out the policies we elected him to pursue. If a department manager won't or can't comply, the Mayor has very little recourse, which means that the people who are directly in charge of city government aren't even indirectly accountable to the citizens. This is a great and long-overdue idea, and I stand ready to give it my full support.

(There's a theory going around that some City Hall bureaucrats are deliberately feeding conflicting information to the Mayor and the Councilors to get them fighting each other, as part of a strategy to discredit them both and help usher in a Democratic mayor like State Secretary of Commerce Kathy Taylor or maybe even old Slewfoot Savage her infernal self.)

I came away encouraged that the Mayor understands what is at stake and that he is prepared to work with and publicly show support for the Reform Alliance councilors, our "Five Star Councilors".

Tonight I attended parts of two town hall meetings, held by Tulsa City Councilors Jim Mautino and Sam Roop. Mayor Bill LaFortune was at Sam Roop's meeting too, both as a listener and as a speaker. I came away feeling hopeful and optimistic.

Councilor Mautino's District 6 meeting at East Central High School started at 7, a half-hour before Councilor Roop's meeting, so I started out there.

If you've been around Jim Mautino for any length of time, you know that he has a passion for seeing east Tulsa developed. He looks at open fields and sees untapped potential. But he is not willing to see east Tulsa's rolling terrain filled with whatever junk the rest of the city doesn't want. East Tulsa's development can be done in a way that results in a pleasant place to live, work, and do business. It can be done in a strategic way that makes the most of 200,000 cars a day that travel I-44 between the I-244 junction and the US 412 / Creek Turnpike junction -- the busiest section of road in the state -- and translates that traffic into retail sales and sales tax revenue for the city. That's Jim's vision, and as a councilor he's working to ensure that the planning and infrastructure are in place to make this happen.

Councilor Mautino began his town hall meeting -- about 60 were in attendance, a good turnout -- with a presentation, centered around a map of the district. He pointed out areas where new sewer and water lines are going in. He talked of a couple of industrial businesses that were going to be forced to relocate out of Tulsa unless they could get hooked up to the city sewer. The sewer is there now and should help encourage more industrial development in the same area.

Councilor Mautino explained Owasso's retail development strategy, using the roads as a funnel to capture shoppers' dollars from the north, before the shoppers can get to the stores in Tulsa. He pointed out that the road network in east Tulsa could be used to create a similar funnel to capture retail dollars from people traveling through Tulsa or coming into the area from the northeast and east.

Councilor Mautino talked about the former town of Fair Oaks in Wagoner County, annexed to Tulsa in 2001. He's working with the principal landowner and INCOG on planning for connecting roads to encourage retail development along our section of Creek Turnpike. Jim sees the retail potential of the I-44 corridor in east Tulsa -- now mainly auto auctions and trucking related. He'd like to make five-laning Admiral Boulevard a priority, to encourage retail development. He wants Tulsa to work aggressively to get outdoor outfitter Cabela's to locate a retail store in east Tulsa, instead of letting Owasso or Jenks get it and all the sales tax revenue. He spoke of a variety of infrastructure priorities for the upcoming general obligation bond issue, and asked for his constituents' input on projects that matter to them.

I had to leave to go to Councilor Roop's meeting, but in the 40 minutes I was there, I was impressed by Councilor Mautino's mastery of policy details and the clarity of his explanations, working without notes -- just the map on the screen and a laser pointer. While Jim seemed a bit nervous at Wednesday's rally, tonight he was quite relaxed. In dealing with some of the controversy, he tried to steer clear of us vs. them language and to focus on the substance of the matter.

I'm too tired to write any more, and Councilor Roop's meeting deserves its own entry. I'll just say again that I was encouraged, particularly by what I heard from the Mayor.

KFAQ has added to its page on last Wednesday's town hall meeting -- in addition to a story and a slide show of photos, they've posted audio of Councilor Chris Medlock's speech, and hope to add more speeches in the next few days. The speech is here -- it's an 18 MB MP3 file.

Councilor Sam Roop wasn't able to attend last Wednesday's town hall meeting with his reform allies, because of a previous commitment, so he's holding his own meeting Tuesday night (October 5) at 7:30 pm, in the Hicks Park recreation center near 34th & Mingo. This is a chance to give Councilor Roop your support and encouragement in thanks for his long record of working for good government at City Hall.

But if you're a resident of Council District 6, Councilor Jim Mautino would like you to join him at a District town hall meeting, a chance to hear about progress around the district, to hear about the proposed capital improvements bond issue, and to get your questions answered. Councilor Mautino's meeting will be at 7 p.m., Tuesday, October 5, at East Central High School.

Listening to the audio and attending either of these district town hall meetings are three more opportunities for you to hear for yourself what these "Five Star Councilors" are all about, unfiltered by media bias.

GOP leaders?


A sidebar to the Whirled's story on the Reform Alliance's town hall meeting (PDF here) announced that "GOP leaders plan rally backing Mayor's efforts". It was curious that the list of "GOP leaders" mentioned in the story -- ORU President Richard Roberts, Bama CEO Paula Marshall-Chapman, Howard Barnett, Nordam CEO Ken Lackey -- did not include any Republican public officials or any Republican party officers.

President Roberts has been largely quiet about politics until recent years. Paula Marshall-Chapman was chairman of the Tulsa Metro Chamber a few years ago, and was one of the signatories on the letter warning elected officials and party leaders not to get in the way of the Vision 2025 juggernaut. Barnett is part of the Jones family that once owned the Tulsa Tribune, and was Governor Frank Keating's Chief of Staff. I'm not aware of Ken Lackey's political involvement.

From what I could see, Republican grassroots and leaders alike were at the Reform Alliance's town hall meeting on Wednesday: Three of the six members of the Tulsa County Republican Central Committee -- Chairman, State Committeeman (that's me), 1st District Committeeman -- plus many people who volunteer for candidates and attend monthly Republican club luncheons, and many folks I didn't know who came to the event wearing Bush-Cheney, Tom Coburn, and John Sullivan campaign T-shirts and hats. I'm not aware that any of us were notified about or invited to this "Republican leaders" event.

This looks like something hastily assembled in response to the Reform Alliance's event, in anticipation that the Reformers would focus their fire on Mayor LaFortune. But the Reformers didn't make a target of the Mayor, and they expressed hope that they could work with the Mayor on the issues facing our city. The Reformers also expressed support for the upcoming general obligation bond issue, which the Whirled story said was mentioned prominently in the press release about the event for the Mayor.

I've heard that the Mayor's event was sparsely attended -- maybe 50 people present -- and that several of the speakers mentioned that the Mayor had personally called them to ask them to come and speak in his behalf. I'll pass along more info as I learn it.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa City Hall category from October 2004.

Tulsa City Hall: September 2004 is the previous archive.

Tulsa City Hall: November 2004 is the next archive.

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