Tulsa City Hall: February 2005 Archives

Who's to blame for the mistake that forced the Tulsa city charter amendment off the ballot? The mistake, if it was a mistake, meant that the unanimous will of Tulsa's elected officials was thwarted, with only two ways to undo the damage: Schedule another city-wide election at a cost of $100,000, or delay the amendment until next March's city general election. Mayor Bill LaFortune's administration has given conflicting answers and doesn't seem anxious to pursue sanctions against the person or persons responsible for the damage to the democratic process.

Big Council meeting tonight

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There are a lot of important issues on tonight's Tulsa City Council agenda.

  • The Mayor has nominated a replacement for planning commission member Dell Coutant (the only member that has respect for the Comprehensive Plan). His name is Owen Ard, and I understand that he lives in Maple Ridge neighborhood and is in real estate. Once again, the Mayor appears to be bowing to his Cockroach Caucus masters by NOT replacing the commissioner who most needs to go -- Joe Westervelt. That must have been some woodshedding they gave Bill out at Homebuilders' Hall.
  • Former District 7 City Councilor Terry Doverspike has been nominated to the Economic Development Commission to replace Jono Helmerich. While Doverspike may not be the Chamber booster that his predecessor on the Council, John Benjamin (now a Bixby resident), was, Doverspike is not likely to be the kind of skeptical outsider we need to oversee the spending of Tulsa's economic development money.
  • An item about allowing the Council to handle appeals from the City Board of Adjustment.
  • An attempt to put off the charter amendment and the city bond issue until May.

And there's more. It all starts at 6 p.m. tonight at City Hall.

Kramer, in "The Fusilli Jerry" episode of "Seinfeld":

"Have you ever met a proctologist? They usually have a very good sense of humor. You meet a proctologist at a party, don't walk away. Plant yourself there because you will hear the funniest stories you've ever heard. See, no one wants to admit to them that they stuck something up there. Never. It's always an accident. Every proctologist story ends in the same way... 'It was a million to one shot, doc, million to one.' "

I thought of that quote when I heard what happened at City Hall Tuesday morning. It seems to capture the difficulty the Mayor's administration has taking responsibility for their decisions.

Mayor Bill LaFortune's chief of staff Clay Bird came down to the City Council's Urban and Economic Development committee meeting to say that due to some freak oversight on the part of the City Clerk's office, necessary paperwork wasn't filed in a timely fashion, and therefore a proposed charter amendment won't be on the April ballot with the bond issue. The purpose of the charter amendment, which passed the Council unanimously, is to restore the supermajority requirement for a zoning change in which a formal protest is filed by a sufficient number of property owners affected by the change.

The committee meeting will be broadcast on TGOV (Cox cable channel 24) sometime between 1:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. tomorrow and every day through the rest of the week. I'm told it's must-see TV. Some of the Councilors seemed quite excited that the charter amendment would not make the April ballot. Now there's talk of delaying the bond issue yet one more month, to May, along with the charter amendment, the District 5 special election to replace Sam Roop and the recall elections in District 2 and 6, all on the same day, with the Cockroach Caucus hoping for a clean sweep -- stop the charter amendment, elect a John Benjamin crony in 5 and get rid of two good councilors in 2 and 6. The Cockroaches apparently hope that a single, relatively high turnout election will ensure that their deep pockets will overwhelm the volunteer efforts in support of Medlock and Mautino and the charter change.

I'm not buying the excuse that it was a mistake by the City Clerk's office. There have been too many coincidental mistakes -- agendas not getting posted and the like -- and they always seem to favor the Cockroaches. If it wasn't an intentional slip, perhaps it's because the City Clerk's office is too busy expediting the processing of recall petitions (which will please the Cockroaches) to handle other important business.

We hear that the Mayor got verbally beat up by some development lobbyists recently, and in the process of saying "uncle!" he promised to stop speaking out against the recall of Medlock and Mautino. If that's so, perhaps he also promised them to find a way to scuttle the charter change and speed up recall. The Mayor doesn't dare come out openly against the charter change and for the recall, beacuse he'd lose his political base, but if he supports the charter change and opposes the recall, he risks offending the men who might bankroll him to the next level of his 8-8-8 plan (eight years as mayor, eight as governor, eight as president).

It seems that the Mayor wants what the Cockroach Caucus wants, but he doesn't want the public to hold him accountable for enabling the Cockroaches to get their way. Like the proctologist's patient, he finds it easier to pretend it was all an accident. Sorry, I'm not buying that -- rectocranial inversions like that don't just happen spontaneously.

Where's all the Tulsa stuff?


I've laid off the Tulsa blogging today -- other news has caught my attention -- but I'll get back to it tomorrow. In the meantime, Bobby of Tulsa Topics has been blogging about more shabby treatment inflicted on a neighborhood association, with the aid of the neighborhood's own city councilor.

Bobby also makes sure the Tulsa World knows precisely whom to contact about the copyright infringements found on the pro-recall Coalition for Reprehensible Government's website. And he reports that now even subscribers can't get to the PDF files on the World's website. (TRACKBACK: Ron Coleman comments over on his blog.)

Homeowners for Fair Zoning has more about the misuse of continuances as an anti-neighborhood tactic in zoning cases.

On the TulsaNow forums, there's talk about the released plans for widening I-44 between the river and Yale. I'm disappointed to see that there is no provision for mid-mile crossovers, which means that the expressway will continue to be a kind of Berlin Wall separating north from south, with bottlenecks at the section line "checkpoints."

Dissin' Terry


Just got word that City Hall has confirmed the rumored staff moves I reported earlier: Mayor Bill LaFortune is appointing City Councilor Sam Roop as Chief Administrative Officer, and Mayoral aide Clay Bird will become Chief of Staff. There's one additional bit of information: Fire Chief Allen LaCroix will do double duty as Chief Operating Officer. Good men all, but the Mayor seems to have stuck to one of his guiding principles: Don't hire anyone who could outshine you. He missed a chance to add energy, ideas, and experience to his administration, and in the process may have permanently alienated a key ally.

The biggest surprise for many City Hall observers is that Terry Simonson was not named to one of these key posts in the Mayor's office. The buzz for a couple of months was that Simonson, who had served under the two previous Republican mayors (Jim Inhofe and Dick Crawford), would be brought on board to try to bring some focus and direction to the last year of Bill LaFortune's term. Some say that the push to put Simonson on the Mayor's staff was coming from Terry's old boss, Sen. Jim Inhofe. (Folks who heard Inhofe's appearance on Thursday's Michael DelGiorno Show remarked that he was unusually willing to comment -- and not in a positive way -- on city matters, a topic he usually sidesteps. The subtext to his comments might well be expressed by this Walt Kelly poem.)

Although a lot of folks had qualms with his coziness with former City Councilor and Chamber-Pot-in-Chief John Benjamin during his 2002 campaign for mayor, people know that Simonson has done some serious thinking about how City Hall ought to be run and how to make city government more efficient and effective. His thoughtfulness is evident in his many op-eds for Urban Tulsa Weekly and on his own website in the during his last run for Mayor. Although I don't always agree with him on policy, there's no doubt in my mind that his presence on the Mayor's team would have been a good thing for the city and a good thing for Bill LaFortune. Had LaFortune been wise, he would have found a way to get Terry on his staff from the first day of his administration.

Instead of being offered a key role on the 11th Floor, there's a rumor that Simonson has been offered the job of interim airports director, which brings with it the thankless task of cleaning up the mess left by Brent Kitchen and the Savage administration. In that position, he'd be based out at Tulsa International Airport, well out of the City Hall loop.

Meanwhile, some folks are asking if there is some connection between Sam Roop's new job and his reversal on the reappointment of Jim Cameron and Lou Reynolds to the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Board. It's hard to imagine that the Mayor would have hired him if he had stuck with his initial "no" vote.

(I wish I could claim credit for the headline, but it's by another amateur punster from Tulsa.)

City Hall shuffle


I have it on good authority that Mayor Bill LaFortune plans to appoint Clay Bird as his chief of staff and City Councilor Sam Roop as the City's Chief Administrative Officer.

This is an interesting move as it throws the balance of power on the Council into question, and it may represent an attempt to break the Reform Alliance majority by other means, as the recall effort seems to be faltering. Depending on how soon the appointment takes place, the new City Councilor will either be chosen in a special election or appointed by the remaining members of the Council. Replacing by appointment would be a messy business, with the Council split 4-4 between the Reform Alliance and the Cockroach Caucus. Unless the City Attorney's office comes up with yet another creative interpretation of the City Charter, a vacancy before March 14, 2005, means that a special election will be called to fill the seat. (An example of a creative interpretation -- saying that because it's less than a year before the 2006 election filing period the vacancy must be filled by appointment.)

If Roop takes the job, it will also remove him as a possible primary challenger to LaFortune in 2006. It will be interesting to see if other possible challengers are handled in a similar way.

Meanwhile, the Cockroach Caucus seems to be attempting an end-around to break up the Reform Alliance. Councilors Bill Christiansen (District 8) and Randy Sullivan (formerly a resident of District 7, which is now unrepresented) have been seen schmoozing Councilors Roscoe Turner and Jack Henderson, the two Democrats in the Reform Alliance, and it's rumored that the South Tulsa Rotary Club (of which Sullivan and Christiansen are members) is promising a substantial amount of money for projects in north Tulsa, the area represented by Henderson and Turner.

If the strategy is to buy Turner's and Henderson's loyalty, it won't work, and it demonstrates the Cockroach Caucus's contempt for their integrity and the Caucus's failure to understand what motivates their service. It would be easier for certain special interests if all public officials were venal, but the rest of us can be thankful that at least a majority on the Council have higher motives.

Way back on Monday, I attended the Downtown Kiwanis club luncheon as the guest of my friend John Eagleton. Ken Neal, editorial page editor of the Tulsa Whirled was the speaker of the day. John knew I'd be interested in hearing Ken speak, since I've written about him and the emissions of his editorial board quite frequently.

Ken has a folksy voice and manner. He spoke very briefly about the paper and the editorial section he oversees, and then threw it open for questions, what he called a "horsewhip the editor" session.

I had a pile of questions I could have asked, but narrowed it down to just one. He had just been asked a question about the mix and selection of syndicated columnists on the op-ed pages, and in fact, they now have a decent assortment, including some of my favorite conservative columnists -- writers like Thomas Sowell, James Lileks, and Paul Greenberg.

I commended Mr. Neal on the diversity of his syndicated columnists but asked why there was a lack of diversity of opinion on local issues. He seemed puzzled by my question. I pointed out that you never read Julie DelCour writing that Ken Neal was wrong about something or Ken Neal writing that David Averill was wrong about something. The board is uniformly supportive of any tax increase -- something Neal openly acknowledged a few weeks ago. The board is also uniformly negative about the reform majority on the Tulsa City Council.

His reply was about what I expected: The Whirled is a private company, not a public institution. We have the right to push our opinions and our ideas.

I wasn't questioning the Whirled's right to publish what they wished, just suggesting that the lack of diverse opinion on local issues was a flaw in need of correction. Neal went on to cite the decades of experience of each of the editorial board members, many of them with years of experience covering City Hall. Because they're all so intimate with the way City Hall works, naturally they're all in agreement over how City Hall ought to be run.

The answer to the next question shed further light on the matter. Kiwanis Club president Rick Brinkley very delicately and politely asked a question about the ethics of the Whirled's coverage of Great Plains Airlines, in which World Publishing Company was invested. Brinkley pointed out that as a matter of practice broadcast media disclose potential conflicts of interest: If ABC reports on a new film from Disney, they make mention of the fact that Disney is ABC's parent company. Neal brushed aside the comparison to broadcast media and said that they have all sorts of ethical standards that cover any conflicts of interest they may have as journalists, although he avoided the issue of conflicts of interest involving the newspaper's owners and their other business interests.

Regarding Great Plains Airlines, Neal pooh-poohed the idea that the newspaper abused the readers' trust in order to help anyone get rich. Neal pointed out that the Lortons, owners of the paper, are already rich. (And we all know that all wealthy people are contented with the amount of wealth they have.) Neal said, "Everybody in town thought it [public subsidy of Great Plains] was a great idea. It was a Chamber deal."

That says it all. Neal and company have a huge blindspot when it comes to dissenting opinion. They sit in their bunker on Main Street, with their decades of listening only to the conventional wisdom, and they honestly can't see any other way of running the city. The city's problems are of course not the fault of the powers-that-be and their policies, but the fault of the people who are doing the complaining.

It's cliched to refer to Pauline Kael's quote about Nixon's landslide -- "No one I know voted for him" -- but it fits this bunch.

In fact, there were many voices objecting to the city's financial involvement with Great Plains, including two then-City Councilors, Randi Miller and Clay Bird, who voted against the deal. A story in the Whirled some time back used their no votes as a way to needle Sam Roop and Roscoe Turner, councilors who voted for the deal but are now critical of it and are involved in the investigation of the airport.

To the Whirled editorial writers, and their allies in the Cockroach Caucus, city politics is utter simplicity. If it's a "Chamber deal," it must be good, and of course, "everybody in town" thinks it's a good idea. Anyone who disagrees is by definition a naysayer, an anti-progress crank, and therefore is beneath notice, no matter how well he can argue his position. The result is an inbred intellectual environment with imbecility as a predictable result.

No wonder the Whirled is so mystified and threatened by the presence of a majority of dissenters on the Council. They don't understand that there are tens of thousands of Tulsans unhappy with the way the city is being run and looking for leaders with fresh ideas.

One more interesting quote from the Q&A session: In response to a question about changing Tulsa's form of government, Neal said, "When you don't have a strong mayor, and you have a strong-mayor system, you run into problems." Neal advocates adding three at-large councilors and making the Mayor a member of the Council as well. The purpose behind such a move would be to make it much more difficult for grass-roots leaders to secure a majority on the Council.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa City Hall category from February 2005.

Tulsa City Hall: January 2005 is the previous archive.

Tulsa City Hall: March 2005 is the next archive.

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