Tulsa City Hall: April 2005 Archives

FLIR of flying

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NOTE: After I posted this entry, I received a couple of e-mails from readers with more details on the switch to blue uniforms, details that make the changeover seem quite reasonable, and I present those below.

Last night after the TulsaNow forum, a number of us gathered at James E. McNellie's Pub on 1st Street for $3 burgers, something wherewith to wet our whistles, and some local political chat.

I was told that the Mayor and the police chief plan to spend a half-million dollars buying new blue uniforms for our police officers. Why? The decision-makers think they look sharper than the green and khaki that the officers currently wear. These uniforms are not only dark blue, but I'm told that they will be 100% wool. Imagine, my informant said, it's a hot Oklahoma summer day, and you're wearing a bulletproof vest and some other layers under a wool shirt made of a heat-absorbing color.

I was also told that Tulsa's two police helicopters are equipped with obsolete Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) systems. The systems have been in service for 13 years, six years beyond their expected useful life. The company that made the FLIR systems is out of business, and a former employee, out in California, bought up all the spare parts and repairs the systems to keep them running. If the guy gets hit by a bus, we're stuck if our current systems stop working. Repairing the FLIR system in a helicopter means incurring the time and expense to send it out to California.

A FLIR system, which makes heat visible, is very useful for tracking someone in the dark. Last summer, two Tulsa police officers won an international first-place prize for using FLIR in an arrest:

At the event FLIR Systems was proud to announce the winners of the 2004 Vision Award competition. First place was awarded to the Tulsa Police Departmentís Tim Smith (pilot) and Tim Ward (Tactical Flight Officer). The winning video featured the apprehension of four suspects who fled first in a vehicle and later on foot. The suspects were wanted in connection with a gang-related double homicide. After the suspects were apprehended, the tape was later used by the department to recover the weapon ditched during the chase, which was determined to be the weapon used in the homicides.

It would make sense to replace the old systems with something new, if we could afford it. We wouldn't have to worry about availability of parts or support. A new system would draw less power and provide sharper images. A new system would allow eyes on the ground to see the FLIR image, which is currently only available to the pilot.

How much would it cost to buy a new FLIR system for both of the TPD's choppers? Half a million dollars, or what we're paying to outfit our officers in itchy dark blue wool.

UPDATE: A reader writes:

After reading your piece on the uniform change for the cops, I passed the information on to a reporter, thinking it might make for a good news story. The response I got tends to indicate you should consider checking your source. You implied in your article that the mayor and chief chose the color. In fact, the change has been approved by a majority vote of the force. That fact was, of course, noted in the link you provided---for those that chose to go there. The reporter I contacted has probed the matter. She said the uniforms cops now wear are made of virtually the same material the new ones will entail, rendering the 100 percent wool issue somewhat neutral. She also said cops pay for their own uniforms. Yes, they pay for them with an allowance from the city, but that allowance will not be increased with the change. So it is perhaps erroneous to claim the city is going to dish out $500,000 to make the switch. And, the new uniforms will be cheaper, according to my source. There are, apparently, more makers of blue uniforms than green. Price competition allows for $40 pants instead of $70 pants, for example. It seems to me the only financial change here is one of a little more pocket money for cops, in that they will be spending less of their allowances on uniforms. There is no dispute on the issue of FLIR. But the two issues are unrelated.

MORE: Another reader, a Tulsa Police reserve officer, writes:

When TPD was advised by the sole remaining supplier of the green shirted uniform, that due to low demand for this uniform that it would probably not be available in five years or less, the Department formed a Uniform Advisory Committee. This Committee was to research and advise for possible replacement of this soon to be unavailable uniform. The committee advised to go to LAPD blue.

Green Uniform Facts:

  1. The uniform is already a blend of wool and polyester.
  2. The uniform is only available in a single fabric weight for summer or winter.
  3. The uniform is not available in female sizes, forcing female Officers to get something close and then visit a tailor for costly fitting.
  4. The uniform is significantly higher in cost than the blue.

LAPD Blue Uniform Facts

  1. The uniform is available in three different weights including a tropical weight.
  2. The uniform is available in a full range of female sizes.
  3. The uniform is available from a number of uniform manufacturers.
  4. Due to the popularity of this uniform it is significantly lower in cost.

Who made the decision to change the uniform?

The decision to change or keep the current uniform was put to a vote by the Officers. They were given the choice of :

Keep the green
Go to something else.

Blue won narrowly over green with something else a very distant third.

Cost to the City:

Each Officer receives $625.00 a year uniform allowance. There are 780 Officers. If the City provides a basic issue of the new uniform, this allowance will not be issued for the current year meaning there will be no additional cost to the City for this uniform change. There is no $500,000 additional cost to the City.

An item 8.F. has been added to the agenda for tonight's Tulsa City Council meeting. It reads:

Consensus of lack of confidence in Alan Jackere as City Attorney in either a temporary or permanent position, and requesting the Mayor to appoint one of the internal candidates as next City Attorney.

I am told that the Mayor is trying to get the item pulled off of the agenda.

For whatever reason the agenda item and its supporting resolution (which details the case against Jackere) do not yet appear on the Council website.

UPDATE: The item was left on the agenda, and the motion failed on a four-four tie, breaking as you would expect.

As disappointed as I was when Bill LaFortune appointed Alan Jackere as acting City Attorney, it was a relief to know that this man, with his creative ways of interpreting our charter and ordinances, was not a candidate to become City Attorney. It was also a relief to know that there were some excellent candidates among the four internal applicants, all four of whom were certified as qualified. There's a civil service rule, the "rule of three," that says if you have at least three qualified internal candidates for a position, you must promote from within.

Jackere became acting City Attorney on July 1, 2004. Evidently, Mayor LaFortune isn't sufficiently enamored of any of the three internal applicants to make the appointment. Now, after an initial lack of interest, Jackere has thrown his hat into the ring for the permanent position.

Here's the scenario I see unfolding: LaFortune's backers want Jackere or someone like him who will continue misinterpreting the law to suit their financial interests. None of the other internal applicants for the job are sufficiently inclined in that direction. Jackere changes his mind and applies for the position. Now LaFortune can technically fulfill the requirements of the rule of three by appointing Jackere to the post, even though he didn't apply by the deadline for internal applicants.

I'll say it again: Every day that Alan Jackere remains as acting City Attorney is another day in which Bill LaFortune demonstrates his contempt for fairness and the rule of law. If LaFortune makes him City Attorney, we're stuck with him for as long as he wants to stay, for all practical purposes. Even if we replace LaFortune in 2006, his successor will be burdened with a City Attorney at odds with a reform-minded Mayor and a reform-minded majority on the City Council. What a rotten legacy that would be.

This Friday night and Saturday, the South and East Alliance of Tulsa (SEAT) will present Community Conference 2005 at Christview Christian Church, 25th and Garnett (just north of Martin East Regional Library). Friday night's session will feature rotating round-table discussions with elected officials, including Bill LaFortune, members of the City Council, County Commission, and various boards and commissions.

Saturday will feature a variety of seminars -- I'll be leading one in the afternoon session on city issues from the neighborhood perspective. Topics include crime prevention, disaster preparedness, zoning, the city public works department, property taxes, legal aid, parks, Route 66, historic preservation, urban development, environmental awareness, building and running a neighborhood association, and many more. You can find all the details here on the home page for the conference.

Last year's first-ever conference was very well done, and SEAT volunteers are working hard to make this year's another success. In addition to all the good information, they're bringing in good food. Friday night's roundtables will feature a chocolate fountain. Saturday morning breakfast will be catered by Panera Bread, and Sooner Barbecue is handling lunch, which will be presided over by Jim Cremins, a very entertaining speaker. The cost is $20 for Friday night, $30 for Saturday, including food.

If you're active in the community or interested in becoming active, the conference will help you learn a lot in a short time. To sign up, phone (918) 439-1432.

Who's the boss?


Mee Citee Wurkor has a solid analysis of today's Whirled article about the lawsuits that have been filed against the City and against several Tulsa City Councilors. The article is a sort of editorial posing as news analysis, featuring carefully selected quotes that all support the common theme: "The Council is irresponsible to ignore the excellent legal advice of my pal, Alan Jackere."

(One of the subtle entertainments of a City Council committee meeting is to watch P. J. Lassek and Alan Jackere, sitting next to each other near the front of the room, each intently watching the discussion and each chomping rhythmically on a wad of gum. I could swear they always end up chewing in sync.)

We have an acting City Attorney that fails to understand that the elected officials are his clients, and he exists to serve their interests. If he renders advice, they are free to ignore it, but he is still obliged to provide whatever legal support they need to accomplish their purposes.

I'll say it one more time, just in case the 11th Floor hasn't been paying attention: It's now been nine months since Martha Rupp-Carter's resignation as City Attorney was effective. Mr. Mayor, you can replace Alan Jackere at any time with one of several good candidates to be a permanent City Attorney. If you value fairness and the rule of law, you'll take care of that this week.

In a departure from recent tradition, Council Vice Chairman Tom Baker was passed over for the chairmanship of the Council, which rotates each April between political parties. Instead, Roscoe Turner was selected by the Democratic caucus on the Council (Turner, Baker, and Jack Henderson) to take the party's turn with the gavel, and the whole Council approved him by a vote of 7-1 -- Susan Neal cast the only "no" vote.

The Republican caucus, now dominated 3-2 by associates of the Cockroach Caucus (Neal, Christiansen and Sullivan, against Mautino and Medlock) chose Susan Neal as the nominee for Vice Chairman. Neal was approved by the Council by a 5-3 vote, with Mautino, Medlock, and Turner dissenting. It's ironic that in April 2003, Sam Roop and Chris Medlock offered to support Neal as Vice Chairman, because they did not want to see Randy Sullivan becoming Vice Chairman and then Chairman. Medlock and Mautino opposed Neal's nomination this year because of her refusal to join nearly every other Republican elected official in the Tulsa area in opposition to the attempt to recall Mautino and Medlock from office.

In other City Hall news, the City will not pay the legal expenses of the five councilors being sued by F&M Bank for their vote rejecting the final plat on the 71st and Harvard property. The topsy-turvy reason: Because the five being sued constitute a majority of the Council, any vote by the Council to cover their legal fees would lack a quorum, because the five would have to recuse themselves. So an official action of the City Council, approved by the majority of the Council, will not be defended by the City. The acting City Attorney, Alan Jackere, who should be working to defend the official action taken by the Council, refuses to do so. Mayor LaFortune continues to demonstrate his contempt for the rule of law and for fairness for all Tulsans by allowing Jackere to continue as acting City Attorney. There are some excellent candidates who have applied for the job, and it's about time LaFortune acted to fill the vacancy.

The Tulsa City Council District 5 special election is for all the marbles. With Sam Roop's departure, the Council is split 4-4 between the forces of reform and the forces of reaction, between the Faithful Four and the Bought and Paid Four.

This election poses a special challenge. Under Tulsa's City Charter, a special election has no primary and no runoff. There is one election, and whoever is first past the post wins the seat. With eight candidates in the race, someone could win with only 13% of the votes. While it's a situation that instant runoff voting would handle flawlessly, the rules are what they are.

Under these conditions, it is essential for reform-minded residents of District 5 to rally around a single candidate. Unfortunately, one candidate, whom I believed to be a reformer, doesn't have the maturity to appreciate the political realities. This candidate has run off whining to the Tulsa Whirled, giving them ammunition, in the form of baseless charges, to use against the good guys.

District 5 Filing


Filing closed today at 5 p.m. for the Tulsa City Council District 5 special election on May 10 -- six Republicans, two Democrats are in the race.

Joe Conner, R
Charlotte Harer, R
Allen Harjo, R
Nancy Jackson, R
William Martinson, R
Al Nichols, D
Andrew Phillips, D
David Weaver, R

I'll tell you what I know about these folks in a later entry.

Today, voters in the City of Tulsa will vote on a $250 million general obligation bond issue, which will be repaid by an increase in the property tax rate amounting to an extra $30 per year for a $100,000 home. I'm voting for all six items and hope you will, too.

Union Public Schools has a runoff for one school board seat. I've been very impressed with Tom Seng, a parent of Union students who wants to see the district focus on academics. He's rightly concerned about the amount of money the district spends on bricks and mortar for non-essentials.

Tulsa Public Schools has a runoff in office 3 (north Tulsa) between Joda Trimiar and Lana Turner.

Bixby, Broken Arrow, Glenpool, and Skiatook all have City Council races on the ballot.

GO Bonds, GO

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I've said this on the radio, but I don't know if I've posted it here yet. I'm supporting the City of Tulsa General Obligation Bond Issues that are on the ballot this coming Tuesday. I've even got "YES" signs in my front yard. You can find details of the projects that the bond will pay for here.

Yes, I know it means city property taxes will go up, but they've been going down the last few years, and they won't return to their previous peak. The extra cost is about $30 a year on a $100,000 home. The City of Tulsa has a backlog of $4 billion in capital improvements needs -- sewer and water line replacement and extension, arterial street widening, residential street rebuilding, along with improvements and replacements for city-owned buildings. Through the third-penny sales tax and these GO bond issues, we're just keeping pace as the needs continue to pile on. We're still building out the infrastructure for land the city annexed in 1966, and at the same time, we've got to replace infrastructure in the older parts of the city. We really should have voted on this a year and a half ago, but it was delayed to make way for Vision 2025. While I would have preferred many of the Vision projects to go to the back of the funding line behind more critical infrastructure needs, that didn't happen, and the infrastructure needs are still there.

There has been some talk about defeating the GO bond to send a message to City Hall. If that happened, it would send the wrong message. The Cockroach Caucus would argue that the failure of the GO bond was the fault of Mautino and Medlock and their allies, and the defeat would be used as ammunition in the campaign for their recall as well as in next year's election. There's been scuttlebutt that at least one branch of the Cockroach Caucus would like to see the bond defeated to damage Bill LaFortune and soften him for defeat by their handpicked replacement. The time to send a message to City Hall is on May 10, when the replacement for District 5 City Councilor Sam Roop is elected -- we need to make sure we get someone in that district who wlil keep the Reform Alliance in the majority.

(In the interest of full disclosure, it turns out that my street will be rebuilt if one of the GO bond questions passes, but I'd already decided to support the bond issue before I knew that, and I'm voting for the items that have nothing to do with me.)

Polls apart

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Earlier this week, in three installments, the Tulsa Whirled and KOTV released the results of a poll of 500 likely voters about Tuesday's bond issue, satisfaction with the progress of Vision 2025, and the popularity of the Mayor, the City Council as a body, and each individual councilor. The poll showed the bond issues passing, a majority satisfied with progress on Vision 2025, the Mayor with a 60% approval rating, and the Council with a 34% approval rating. On the individual councilors the undecideds were around 50% on each. The decided voters broke 50-50 for and against Chris Medlock, Jim Mautino, and Roscoe Turner; the other councilors had a majority approving. The poll has a margin of error of +/-4%.

The supplied answers to one of the questions about the Council were just bizarre:

We wanted to know if voters think the current conflict among members of city council is helping or hurting the city. When asked if the conflict is helping or hurting the city's growth and development, 60 percent say the conflict is hurting the city by preventing important growth and development. 22 percent say the conflict helps the city by raising questions about the city's growth and development. 9 percent say it's just business as usual. Another 9 percent had no opinion.

It would make sense to ask the "helping/hurting" question without qualification, but adding the reasons is more typical of a "push poll," in which the poll is really a vehicle for delivering a partisan message to the voter. What answer would you give to that question if you feel that the conflict is helping the city by exposing long-hidden problems in city government? Interesting, too, is that they didn't give the voter a chance to say which side he blamed for the conflict.

It's possible that this is the one poll in twenty that is outside the margin of error -- the odds are 19-1 against drawing such an unrepresentative sample. How the pollster qualified likely voters is another factor that can affect the result of a poll. Did they simply ask the respondent, "Are you likely to vote?" Pollster Ed Goeas has said that older voters tend to underestimate their likelihood of turning up at the polls, while younger voters tend to overestimate. A more sophisticated approach uses a voter's actual history of showing up at the polls, as recorded in the state's voter database. If the sample of voters for this poll was drawn from the general voting population, I would expect different results if the sample were taken from those who regularly vote in municipal elections.

That said, I'm not surprised by the results. Although I would have been happy to know that most voters in the city agree with me, the reality is that most people aren't paying close attention, and they will tend to have a positive view of local officials unless they're given some specific reason to believe otherwise. Many people still depend on the Whirled for their understanding of local events, and Councilors Mautino, Medlock, and Turner have been hammered in the news pages and on the editorial pages since they took office. It is surprising that Vision 2025 only has a bare majority of support, lower than its margin of victory in 2003.

About this Archive

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

Tulsa City Hall: March 2005 is the previous archive.

Tulsa City Hall: May 2005 is the next archive.

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