Tulsa City Hall: November 2004 Archives

Medlock responds to Ken Neal


Tulsa City Councilor Chris Medlock responds on his blog to editorial page editor Ken Neal's column in Sunday's Whirled about the attempt to recall him and colleague Jim Mautino. Medlock zeroes in on this Neal remark:

Now a group composed of upset business operators, developers, home builders and civic activists and many of the hundreds of citizens who serve without pay on the city’s authorities and agencies, have mounted a recall action against Medlock and Mautino. The movement is in its first stages and most veteran observers of City Hall are appalled that Tulsa has come to what amounts to a city civil war.

Medlock points out that the Whirled has only identified two people backing the recall effort -- Jon Davidson and Herb Haschke, who signed the ethics forms for the recall campaign committee. So does Ken Neal know something that the Whirled doesn't want us to know about this shadowy group? Medlock takes Neal's statement apart and gives his readers a translation, which you should go and read.

If we're in a city civil war, then Ken Neal is the fool who fired on Fort Sumter, desperate to preserve an old order that is passing away.

I spent part of today at the library, using the Whirled's online archives to see what the Whirled wrote about Great Plains Airlines from its first appearance on the scene as Sunwest (sometimes Sun West) Airlines in 1999. There is a lot of information to sift through.

The Whirled's parent company, World Publishing Co., paid $700,000 for 233,333 shares of preferred stock in the airline in November 2000. (The Whirled claims it paid $100,000 in cash -- the remainder was $600,000 in advertising space. The Whirled didn't bother to disclose its investment in Great Plains Airlines until February 16, 2003. By that time, the taxpayers of the State of Oklahoma and the City of Tulsa had donated millions of dollars in subsidies to support this airline that never came close to delivering on its promises. Throughout this period, in which public officials were deciding whether to continue to pump more money into the venture, the Whirled ran positive stories promoting the airline and its potential. You will look in vain for even a hint of skepticism or concern.

A newspaper has the trust of many citizens and decision-makers in the community. It's assumed that the local daily is doing its best to inform us completely and accurately -- that they wouldn't have any reason to distort or conceal information.

The F&M Bank zoning controversy and the Great Plains Airlines scandal have exposed to the public the extent to which the business interests of World Publishing Co. and its owners skew the Whirled's coverage of local government.

If the Whirled wishes to regain the trust of its readers they should stop using their news pages to defend the company's actions and instead recuse themselves from coverage of the story. Let's have a newspaper from another part of the country with no Tulsa business ties come in and investigate the story.

There's a vigorous discussion about the release of findings about Great Plains Airlines and the Tulsa Airport Authority and the significance of the Whirled's ownership over on the TulsaNow forums. Go read it and weigh in with your own thoughts.

UPDATE: You can find the Tulsa Whirled's stories in today's edition starting here on the front page, with a jump page for one of the stories plus a timeline of events here, and jump page for the other story plus the June 2003 list of investors here. The Whirled's editorial defense is here.

No time to write today, but check in Monday morning here and on KFAQ for my analysis and perspective.

Can't avoid making one comment: I guess the Tulsa Whirled has to be under a cloud of suspicion before it will provide detailed information on a story to its readers.

The findings of the first phase of the City Council's investigation into the operation of Tulsa's airports were released today, published on the City Council's website. You'll find the main body of the report here and the "abbreviated addendum" here.

(Be warned that the addendum is PDF file that has been optimized within an inch of its life. It appears that someone scanned in the addendum documents to create a PDF in Adobe Acrobat, then decided it was too large for people to download, so he ran optical character recognition on the result, keeping only the text found by the OCR and throwing away the image of the original. Hopefully, this will be corrected before long, because what is on the web now is hard to decipher.)

I'm just starting to dig through this. I didn't see the presentation of the report at the City Council meeting, so I'm probably missing some context, but this is what it looks like to me: Great Plains Airlines appears to have been a scheme to take a relatively small amount of private money, allow influential citizens to buy in at a very low cost, in order to pry loose a much larger amount of public money, ultimately for the enrichment of a few stockholders.

First among the preferred stockholders is World Publishing Company (WPC), publishers of the Tulsa Whirled, purchasing 233,333 shares of preferred stock of Great Plains Airline Holding Co. for $700,000. That represents a majority of the 445,699 shares of preferred stock sold at $3 a share, for a total value of $1,337,103. That investment also represents a majority of the capitalization: 6,495,137 shares of common stock were sold at either 1 mill (one tenth or a cent) per share or five cents per share, for a total value of $31,926.14. So the total price of issued stock was $1,369,029.14.

There was a dispute some months ago about what share of Great Plains Airlines was owned by World Publishing Company (WPC). Michael DelGiorno reported that WPC owned a majority of Great Plains Airlines. WPC sent legal nastygrams and insisted that it only held 3% of the stock. WPC's answer was misleading, honest only in a narrow technical sense -- if you divide the number of WPC's preferred shares by the combined number of common shares and preferred shares, you get 3.592%. But if you consider the price paid for the shares, the Whirled's parent company had invested 51% of the private money invested in Great Plains Airline Holding Co. The Tulsa Whirled's parent company had the biggest financial stake in the airline, the most to gain.

The price of the common stock is strange -- selling a thousand shares for a dollar is no way to raise capital for a startup business. The list of names of investors seems to point to an explanation. Many of them were in a position of influence to smooth the way for public financing and subsidy for the airline: Steven Berlin, former CFO of Citgo and a member of the Tulsa Industrial Authority (TIA); Don McCorkell, former Democrat State Representative and an influential lobbyist; Thomas Kimball, head of economic development for the City of Owasso a friend to then-Gov. Frank Keating; Bob Cullison, former Senate President Pro Tempore; Patrick Schnake and Steve Turnbo from the PR firm of Schnake Turnbo, plus Lauren Brookey, formerly a partner in that firm; Margaret Erling Frette, lobbyist and wife of John Erling, once the highest-rated local talk show host; Clyde Cole, former President and CEO of the Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce; Van Scoyoc Associates, a DC lobbying firm specializing in government grants. While some of these people invested a tiny amount for their common shares, what would have happened to the value of their shares if an initial public offering (IPO) had occurred (especially if it had occurred before the tech bubble burst)?

I'll be combing through the report over the next few days. I hope you will, too, and I'd enjoy reading your observations, if you'll e-mail them to me -- or head over to the TulsaNow forums for an online discussion.

Reading between the water lines


The case for the reappointment of Jim Cameron and Lou Reynolds to the TMUA (on tonight's Council agenda) and the case for the policies they've been pursuing were undermined by two articles on the front page of the Tulsa Whirled this morning.

First, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson announced (jump page here) that the state has reached an agreement with poultry integrators to pay for the clean up of chicken litter from Oklahoma watersheds. With the state of Oklahoma pursuing this issue vigorously, and apparently successfully, it further undercuts the argument that Cameron and Reynolds on the TMUA are indispensible to pursuing the cleanup of Tulsa's Spavinaw watershed.

Second, the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) is cracking down on freeloaders, (article starts on same page, same jump page as above) and it appears that the Oklahoma Ordnance Works Authority may be taking and reselling Grand River water (as much as a billion gallons a month) without payments to or the permission of the GRDA, which owns the water rights for the Grand River. The Whirled article carefully avoids explaining the possible consequences of the GRDA's reassertion of its rights, and instead spends the start of the story rehashing the threat by Owasso City Manager Rodney Ray to stop buying water from Tulsa and buy it instead from OOWA at a lower rate. Reading between the lines, OOWA may not be able to offer those cheap water rates to Tulsa's suburbs now that the GRDA is reasserting control over its water rights, possibly rendering Ray's threat an empty one.

Big Council meeting tonight


It's "pack the house" night at City Hall at 6 p.m. Three controversial issues are on the agenda: The second attempt at confirming the reappointment of Jim Cameron and Lou Reynolds to the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority; Councilor Jim Mautino's resolution to direct the Planning Commission to study a change to the zoning code that would allow Board of Adjustment appeals to be heard by the City Council; and the unveiling of the report of the Council subcommittee investigating the airport. This is also the first meeting since Mayor LaFortune's veto of the Economic Development Commission reform plan.

I can't be there, sorry to say, but I hope many of you will show up to support the Reform Alliance Councilors and to sign up to speak in support of their initiatives toward making city government work for all Tulsans, not just the favored few.

I learned today that TMUA board member Jim Cameron's dad, Roy Cameron, passed away and that his services are tomorrow afternoon, just a few hours before what will likely be a contentious public hearing. Condolences to the Cameron family. Several of the Councilors -- both supporters and opponents of Cameron's reappointment -- expressed a willingness to hold off on his hearing until the next Council meeting (the Thursday after Thanksgiving) out of respect for Cameron and his family. There's no hurry, since he will continue to serve until reappointed or someone is appointed in his place. There seemed to be general agreement on the postponement, but then Council Chairman Randy Sullivan and Council Vice Chairman Tom Baker, both part of the Cockroach Caucus, insisted that the hearing move forward, the funeral notwithstanding. Apparently, nothing is more important to them than getting these men reappointed to the TMUA, for whatever reason.

Another thing: The talking point from the administration is that Cameron and Reynolds are essential to moving forward productively on the issues involving chicken poop in Tulsa's water. However much they have learned about the issue, neither of them are hydrologists, biologists, or poultry experts. It seems to me that the OKC law firm that was paid $7.3 million of the $7.5 million settlement is far more important -- they must be if we paid them that much -- and they aren't going anywhere no matter who sits on the TMUA.

Preliminary petitions seeking the recall of Tulsa City Councilors Chris Medlock and Jim Mautino were filed today with the City Clerk's office. More details later. This is just the first phase of the process. You can find details on the recall process here.

It's interesting that this should come two days prior to the release of the findings of the Council's airport investigation. You don't suppose this is an attempt to distract from and discredit those findings?

Head Chamber Pot to speak


Speaking of the Cockroach Caucus, the head of the bureaucracy at the Tulsa Metro Chamber, Jay Clemens, will speak to the Tulsa County Republican Men's Club this Friday at the Fountains Restaurant, 6540 South Lewis. The TCRMC monthly luncheon begins at 11:45 am, and the cost is $9 for the Fountains' lunch buffet. There are always a number of guests in attendance, and we usually have as many women as men present.

I'll have to miss it, I'm sad to say, so I hope someone who goes will take some good notes and pass them along to me.

Mr. Clemens, a resident of Broken Arrow, is a controversial figure. Many in the business community would like to see him replaced. They see the Chamber as fiddling while Rome burns -- taking expensive junkets to the Caribbean and Hawaii, continuing to focus economic development efforts on luring large facilities to Tulsa, rather than nurturing businesses that are already here. Insiders talk of a controlling attitude that stifles innovation both within the Chamber bureaucracy and in the city as a whole. During a previous stint in a similar role elsewhere, Clemens received national attention for discouraging a company's plan to bring 500 new jobs to the area because it would "unrealistically drive up wages."

It is widely believed that the Chamber is encouraging the effort to recall Councilors Chris Medlock and Jim Mautino because of the Councilors' efforts to hold the Chamber accountable for how the Chamber spends the City of Tulsa's hotel/motel tax dollars. It should be interesting to see what he has to say to Republican grassroots activists, who enthusiastically support Medlock and Mautino and the reform of the city's economic development approach. It will be interesting to see what they have to say to him in return. It may be a valuable learning experience for Mr. Clemens.

By the way, the Fountains Restaurant serves wonderful bread pudding, which is delicious, and, I am told, also possesses interesting ballistic characteristics when saturated with glaze, but I've never seen that for myself.

UPDATE: In answer to a question, no, you do not have to be a member of the TCRMC in order to attend the luncheon. (Although you are encouraged to join -- dues are $20 per year.)

To the surprise of none and the disappointment of many, Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune has vetoed the ordinance reforming the Economic Development Commission (EDC), the city board charged with oversight of the portion of Tulsa's 5% hotel-motel tax which is earmarked for economic development and convention and tourism development. Word is that the Mayor called the ordinance "divisive," presumably because the Tulsa Metro Chamber doesn't like the idea of oversight and accountability for the millions of tax dollars it receives each year.

The Mayor is also reported to have referred to himself in his veto message as a strong and decisive mayor for all of Tulsa. "Strong mayor" appears to mean strong enough to stand up and say a loud no to the ordinary people of Tulsa who are longing for real reform, who expect economic development money to facilitate real job growth, not expensive junkets like the Mayor's recent Chamber-paid trip to Germany and Liechtenstein or the Chamber's trips to Hawaii and Aruba.

I am told that the Mayor refused to meet with Councilor Chris Medlock, sponsor of the reform, prior to issuing his veto.

The Mayor can call himself strong and decisive all he wants, but that doesn't make it so. I'll agree with that assessment when I see him actually do something that earns him the public condemnation of Chamber President Bob Poe and the Tulsa Whirled editorial page. The reforms he vetoed were reasonable and necessary to ensure that the City of Tulsa's economic development money goes to develop the City of Tulsa and is used effectively. The Council's reform proposal would have brought about geographical representation -- no part of our city left behind -- a coherent economic development strategy, accountability, and freedom from conflicts of interests.

Sometimes being divisive means moving forward even when powerful interests disagree, even with four of nine city councilors voted no.

When Bill LaFortune was running for office, he promised to listen to everyone as he made his decisions. The real question, I told people at the time, is to whom will he be listening when he makes his decision. If we didn't know already, we know now.

What is the Board of Adjustment


Tulsa City Councilor Jim Mautino has proposed allowing Board of Adjustment (BoA) cases to be appealed to the City Council. As it stands, once the BoA acts, the decision can only be appealed to District Court. Councilor Mautino's concern is that this situation puts justice beyond the reach of many who are hurt by a BoA decision, and that having the City Council hear an initial appeal would allow grievances to be handled at a lower cost in time and money.

The response from the Cockroach Caucus has been fascinating to watch, and, as always, the Tulsa Whirled editorial page leads the way, proclaiming that Mautino's proposal is a solution in search of a problem. It's a typically arrogant response -- if we don't have a problem, the problem doesn't exist -- but more about that later. Here's some background to help you understand what this is all about.

The BoA gets involved when a property owner's plans or actions run afoul of the City of Tulsa's zoning code. For example: An owner applies for a building permit and is told that his proposed new structure or addition doesn't comply with setbacks from the street or height limits for the land's zoning classification. A business owner applies for a certificate of occupancy -- changing the use of an existing building -- and is denied because the proposed new use isn't permitted by the zoning for the site. A property owner is cited by Neighborhood Inspections (formerly known as Code Enforcement) for a violation of the zoning code.

This week's Beacon


This week's Tulsa Beacon features the news that the Federal probe into Tulsa's airports is now being extended to Jones Riverside Airport, and particularly examining the Tulsa Airport Authority's dealings with City Councilor Bill Christiansen, who owns Christiansen Aviation, and his only competitor for fuel sales at the airport, Kent Faith's Roadhouse Aviation. Faith's suit against the Tulsa Airport Authority (TAA) and Christiansen was settled out of court. The heart of the matter is the allegation that the TAA adopted rules designed to drive Roadhouse out of business and leave Christiansen with a monopoly, contrary to FAA rules. This will be worth watching.

This week's issue also has a story about Mayor LaFortune's plans to veto the economic development reforms passed by the Council, along with some speculation about who will run for Mayor in 2006.

You can find the Beacon at area QuikTrip stores, among other places. No need to buy the Sunday Whirled, the Beacon has TV and movie listings!

Homeowners for Fair Zoning website


Tulsa's Homeowners for Fair Zoning has launched an attractive new website, which features a "news log," which is in fact a Movable Type blog, used for HFFZ news items, announcements, and editorials. Eventually, they'll add content about the organization and how to join. The news log currently features an editorial in support of Councilor Jim Mautino's proposal regarding Board of Adjustment appeals and an article about the reappointments to the water board, which was featured in an earlier entry here. Add it to your bookmarks.

Medlock relaunches website


Tulsa City Councilor Chris Medlock has relaunched his website ChrisMedlock.com as a way to get his perspective on City Hall controversies directly to the public, unfiltered by the media.

For example, there's this article about Mayor LaFortune's response to the reforms to the Economic Development Commission approved by the Council. An excerpt:

So here we are. We have an ordinance in place that broadens the scope and responsibilities of the EDC, so that the members, chosen by LaFortune, can now look beyond the confines of just the Hotel/Motel Tax, to begin looking at all elements of our city's economy. We have an ordinance that requires from any contracting organization (the ordinance never directly mentions the Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce) full disclosure of how tax dollars are spent. The ordinance ensures that all areas of Tulsa will be represented, rather than two or three zip codes. We have an ordinance that deals firmly with conflicts of interest and empowers a majority the city council to remove members for cause (note: "cause" is defined in our City Charter. As such, you need better reason to remove an EDC member from the commission than you need to remove a councilor from the City Council).

While it is true that Mayor LaFortune offered the council an alternative ordinance, he did so just hours before we were set to vote on the council's version. I had met with the Mayor and his aide, Tom Warren, on the Wednesday preceding the vote. This meeting was to discuss the handful of minor changes that the Mayor had suggested in the Legislative and Public Safety committee meeting the Tuesday before. As he left the meeting, (ironically to meet with Metro Chamber Chairman Bob Poe), we were all still under the understanding that the Mayor would suggest some small changes to reflect his earlier statements. But that was a faulty assumption.

Rather than some minor tweaking, we got what amounted to a virtual rewrite. Please remember that the ordinance in the form that was ultimately passed, was the result of dozens of meetings with the feed back and compromise of dozens of stakeholders. What the Mayor presented to the council was a document better suited for an opening negotiation, not for an 11th hour alternative. What the mayor proposed couldn't have been more devoid of serious reform, if it had been written by Chairman Poe himself. ...

Last minute delays are becoming a hallmark of this administration. Appeals for "reasonableness" and "not rushing things" can often be compelling. But when they become mantras of confusion or ill preparedness, then ending the discussion and moving on becomes a rational act. What is irrational is to consistently stall in hopes of an issue merely going away, or resolving itself through other's efforts.

The mayor is certainly within his rights to veto. In fact, those of us who voted for the ordinance expected he would do so before we ever entered the council room. However, all acts convey something about the person taking the action. In this case, should the mayor veto, we will learn that he is more interested in the promises that will secure him votes for the next election, rather than keeping the promises that won him the last election.

The site is still under construction, but it should be worth regular visits. I hope Medlock will look into adding blog software to his site, which will make it simpler for him to add new content while keeping the old content available. And a wiki would be perfect for the "Players' List" he plans to add -- as a way to allow Tulsans to explore all the connections between various players in city government.

Not entirely above board


A revealing tidbit from yesterday's Tulsa Whirled story on the re-renomination of Jim Cameron and Lou Reynolds to the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority (TMUA):

During Tuesday's interview, Henderson asked the men if they knew Herbert Haschke Jr., treasurer of the Coalition for Responsible Government 2004, which is conducting a recall effort against Medlock and Mautino.

Reynolds said he might have had legal dealings with him, and Cameron said Haschke did some estate planning for his father.

Henderson asked whether the men supported the recall effort. Reynolds said he was neutral about it, and Cameron never answered.

According to the records of the Oklahoma Secretary of State, Haschke and Reynolds are co-incorporators of "THE COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATION OF TULSA, INC." Haschke and Cameron were co-incorporators of "IHCRC REALTY CORPORATION" -- IHCRC stands for Indian Health Care Resource Center, of which Jim Cameron is secretary of the Board of Directors. BatesLine reported this information a month ago (here and here).

Why did Cameron and Reynolds choose not to be open and direct about their dealings with Haschke? This is one more example of the refusal of these two men to be cooperative and forthcoming with the City Council, and one more reason why the Mayor should fulfill his commitment to name two other Tulsans to replace them on the TMUA.

I received this via e-mail from Homeowners for Fair Zoning, requesting Tulsans to express their opposition to the reappointment of two controversial water board members, which will be on the agenda at Thursday night Tulsa City Council meeting. It includes a good overview of the reasons for rejecting the reappointments:


Councilor Sam Roop (e-mail dist5@tulsacouncil.org) is set to reverse a lot of effort of the Reform Alliance of Five City Councilors who, with his support, have declined to confirm the Mayor's reappointment of Jim Cameron and Lou Reynolds to the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority (TMUA). For background on this issue read BatesLine: Picking at a scab. Although Councilor Roop has announced his intention to reverse his position and confirm these nominees, you are requested to e-mail him your thoughts under the subject caption of "Please do not confirm appointments of Cameron and Reynolds." The confirmation vote will likely be at the 6:00 p.m. Tulsa City Council Meeting on November 18th.

The TMUA is Tulsa's water board. Through bonded indebtedness, the citizens of Tulsa pay for the infrastructure (pumping stations, water lines, sewer lines, water treatment facilities, etc.) which provide our water system, including water to surrounding communities like Broken Arrow, Jenks and Owasso. The Mayor is demanding that two current board members, Mr. Cameron and Mr. Reynolds, be reappointed to TMUA. Aside from potential conflicts of interest, there are several good reasons not to confirm the reappointment of these longtime board members.

Anyone who has been in their appointed positions as long as these two men have has stopped examining the basis for their decisions and policies. As indicated by their discussion before the City Council, if confirmed, they will continue to support a water board policy of extending water service to those areas, inside or outside of Tulsa, which can demonstrate an immediate need for the facilities and at the same rates paid by citizens of Tulsa. Decisions for future extensions of the water system will not be principally based on developing areas within Tulsa. To these nominees, the idea of extending lines within North, East and West Tulsa to interest and draw business development is considered overly speculative. Furthermore, they consider linking loss of sales tax for the suburbs to increased water rates as beyond their purview. They do not view the water
board as a potential revenue generating source for the City.

When some members of the City Council, led by Councilors Mautino and Medlock, tried to question whether it would be practical to charge a higher rate for water service to communities outside Tulsa to offset the loss in sales tax revenue which Tulsa suffers when those communities develop and lower Tulsa's sales tax base, TMUA staff delayed furnishing information and a massive turnout of those who stood to benefit financially by not having the water rates and location of pipeline extensions examined was used to try to intimidate these councilors.

Since Jim Cameron and Lou Reynolds lead and for all practical purposes set the policy of TMUA, their reappointment will also confirm these policies and prevent a highly desirable examination of what Tulsa's future water policy should be. For Tulsa's sake, it's time to examine water policy. Let Councilor Roop know what you think!

Picking at a scab

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We thought the matter was settled. Three Republican councilors -- Sam Roop, Chris Medlock, and Jim Mautino -- signed a letter to Mayor Bill LaFortune saying that under no circumstances would they approve the reappointment of Jim Cameron and Lou Reynolds to the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority (TMUA) -- Tulsa's water board. Just over three months ago, the Council rejected their reappointment, and the city establishment reacted with outrage and fury, which made ordinary citizens wonder what the big deal was. The reaction reminded some people of the defensive behavior of a guilty husband caught in an affair. My wife thought the word "apoplectic" was a good fit for the Cockroach Caucus's reaction. The uproar reminded me of the scene from "The Wizard of Oz" when Dorothy pours water on the Wicked Witch, and she shrieks, "I'm melting!"

After weeks of contention, the Mayor had finally committed to nominate two replacements, but before he got around to it, Sam Roop went to the Mayor and said that he no longer had any objection to Cameron and Reynolds being reappointed, and encouraged the Mayor to put their names back before the Council.

So here we are again, and thanks to Mr. Roop, the nominations are on this morning's Public Works Committee agenda at 8 a.m. We will almost certainly see the renominations approved, and the Tulsa Whirled will take the opportunity to praise him for his maturity and judgment and at the same time beat up the other four Reform Alliance councilors. The "injury" caused by the contention was healing nicely, and city officials were moving forward, when Councilor Roop ripped the scab off and reopened the wound.

The issue at the heart of the renomination dispute was whether our water board's policy is in the best interest of the City of Tulsa and its citizens. Are the suburbs paying the costs of extending water service to them? Are the suburbs paying a fair rate for our water? Are our water policies fueling suburban sprawl to the detriment of the City's sales tax base? These questions were raised at a Budget Committee meeting later on the same day (July 27, 2004) that Cameron's and Reynolds' renominations were before the Public Works Committee. Here are the online minutes for that Budget Committee meeting:

1. Discussion with Public Works/Environmental Operations and representatives from TMUA Board with emphasis on planning and decision making processes (including unserved areas within the City limits) and calculation of return on investment. 04-411

Discussion or Action At Meeting:

Discussion of this item lasted for more than an hour. Mr. Cameron made a presentation on TMUA and it policies. TMUA has a plan for this decade and the next decade that is demand driven, that is they have decided to take certain actions as demand dictate. There is a process for making service averrable to unserved areas in the City. it is not TMUA's policy to provide the individual development or entitiy with service, they provide major lines only. Those lines are usually a reaction to not an impetus for development. Wholesale customers pay the City at least a ten percent return on applicable investment to date and on investment expected to occur in the next five years. The rate model is the same for all outside customers.

More than one Councilor expressed concern over the City’s present rate of development relative to surrounding communities and the role of water and sewer in this process. Considerable discussion ensued with he eventual conclusion that this topic needs more discussion.

Instead of allowing the Council time to study and discuss the issue with TMUA, the very next day the TMUA voted to authorize extending a water line to the suburb of Bixby. It was a slap in the face of the citizens of Tulsa, through our elected representatives, by making this commitment so quickly after several council members raised concerns.

The only means the Council has to ensure that a board or authority is implementing the will of the people is at reappointment time. The highhanded TMUA action on July 28 required a strong response from the Council, not passive acquiescence.

I am disappointed in Sam Roop's decision to go back on his commitment to oppose these nominations. Like his apology to then City Attorney Martha Rupp Carter in 2002, Roop's pulling back in this case will fuel the Cockroach Caucus' attacks on Roop's colleagues. In 2002, that situation killed the reelection hopes of Roscoe Turner and Todd Huston, and it nearly lost the election for Roop. The apology gave the newspaper a reason to hammer these councilors over and over again. Roop's decision plays right into the hands of the groups actively seeking to remove Councilors Mautino and Medlock in a recall.

Sam Roop has done a lot of good things and taken some bold stands in his time on the Council. Reopening this wound isn't one of them.

Time for an adjustment


Tulsa City Councilor Jim Mautino has proposed a significant change to the process of land use regulation. The usual suspects have reacted with shock and horror, breathing threats of vengeance. It fits the template I posted a couple of days ago: A city councilor makes a proposal to address a need or concern that has been around for a long time, but which has been ignored by previous councils. The city establishment responds as if it is being subjected to medieval torture.

Mautino wants citizens to be able to appeal Board of Adjustment (BoA) decisions to the City Council, rather than having to hire an attorney and go to District Court to reverse or amend the decision. Homeowners say that some BoA decisions can have a negative impact on neighboring properties, but the cost of appealing those decisions is beyond the means of many property owners. Developers are concerned that putting the City Council in the loop will politicize land use decisions and adds a degree of uncertainty and delay that would make many projects uneconomical.

To my eyes, that looks like the starting point of a discussion about what the real problems are and the fairest way to answer both sets of concerns. But for snarling loonies like Tulsa Metro Chamber Bob Poe, it's one more reason to destroy these city councilors.

In another post, I'll get into the technicalities -- what the Board of Adjustment does, how it differs from the planning commission, and some of the problems that have led Councilor Mautino to propose this change. My feeling is that this proposal would be just another patch on another heavily patched and broken land use system that doesn't fit Tulsa's needs any more, as we transition from developing open space to redeveloping in already developed neighborhoods. We need to find an approach that offers more certainty to everyone involved in the process, rather than making the outcome dependent on the skill of lawyers and the whims of unelected board members. We need a system that protects us against land-use situations that really do create problems, while allowing the creativity of the market freedom to work. We need a system that will help us build the kind of city we want to live in. It's time to have that conversation.

No, I haven't forgotten about Tulsa


I will be back to writing about local politics, although I don't think I've missed much. It's the same old pattern:

  1. Member of City Council majority proposes solution to a widely-held concern that has been ignored by the city establishment.
  2. Tulsa Whirled reports the story, accompanied by a distorting headline and an unflattering picture of the Councilor in question.
  3. Tulsa Metro Chamber Chairman Bob Poe delivers a ranting condemnation in front of a civic group.
  4. Mayor Bill LaFortune tries to find a way to appear decisive without making anyone not like him.
  5. Tulsa Whirled publishes editorial condemning the foolish Councilors for questioning a policy that has been around for years and that the city establishment is quite content with.
  6. Councilor Sam Roop steps away from his erstwhile colleagues and into the spotlight, skull in hand, to recite a soliloquy from Hamlet, so that everyone can see that he's the only real grownup on the Council.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Specifics to be addressed sometime Sunday. There's the EDC thing -- the Mayor was talking about it on KFAQ Friday morning. Then there's Councilor Mautino's proposal regarding Board of Adjustment appeals.

About this Archive

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

Tulsa City Hall: October 2004 is the previous archive.

Tulsa City Hall: December 2004 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



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