Tulsa City Hall: June 2009 Archives

Tulsa City Councilor Bill Martinson has issued a response to Saturday's press release from Tulsa FOP president Philip Evans. Evans attacked Martinson's budget presentation from last Thursday night, a presentation that highlighted the growth and size of the Police and Fire departments' portion of the city's general fund revenues, characterizing Martinson's proposal as an "attempted coup."

(You can now view the Martinson presentation online on Councilor John Eagleton's website, without needing a copy of PowerPoint. You will need the free Adobe Flash player installed.)

Some highlights of Martinson's response:

As I stated to both Chief LaCroix and Chief Palmer on Thursday night, my intent was not to attack, but rather to prepare both departments for a drastic decline in funding dictated by economic reality. Since Police and Fire have managed to consume 100% of our sales tax operating revenue, I feel they must be prepared to adjust their operating structure to keep expenses in line with those revenues. My proposal Thursday night accomplished just that. The choices were theirs to make and, despite the budget approved by the Council and their hopes to the contrary, they may still face those choices and sooner than they think....

The public safety unions have done a masterful job of dictating policy. This needs to stop and elected officials must assume responsibility for the Citizens....

The unions, Administration, and certain City Councilors argue that the only option in reduced funding is to reduce staffing. This is true only if they wish it to be.... For example, it is not unusual for the City to re-negotiate contract terms, and while I have not been a party to any of the pending contract negotiations, prudent business practice would be to include language allowing for a revision in compensation structure, including perks, should conditions so dictate. If a relief provision is not incorporated in the agreements, one must wonder why, or one must ask why protecting certain union paychecks is more important than protecting the City....

Contrary to their persistent cries for more manpower, the Police and Fire unions have parlayed this unabated 35% increase in funding into fewer positions rather than more. Not only have the unions successfully negotiated with the Administration to utilize the additional funding to enrich their members rather than increase staffing to serve the City, but the Mayor, Chief Palmer, and the FOP have all ignored Tulsa's ordinance pertaining to take home vehicles....

Click the link to read the whole thing.

On Saturday, I received the following press release from Philip Evans, president of the Tulsa Lodge #93 of Fraternal Order of Police, in response to Tulsa City Councilor Bill Martinson's presentation during the Council's debate on Thursday, June 18, 2009, about the budget. Here is Evans's statement, verbatim:

The Fraternal Order of Police does not normally take an active roll in public theatrical politic, but in light of the attempted coup of Thursday evening's City Council meeting there is actually no choice. When four elected leaders, Counselors:
Westcott, Gomez, Eagleton, and Martinson, actively attempt to get rid of 20% of public safety officers from both the Police and Fire service, the public needs to take notice. There are two main misconceptions that need to be addressed.

The public generally has no idea of how police officers are paid, however, city counselors are not the general public and should be well versed on our system.
Many years ago the City established a "universe of comparable cities", ten cities much like Tulsa in size and population. The goal was to make our wage system comparable to
that of similar cities. The Fraternal Order of Police Negotiations Team struggles to bring Tulsa up to the average wage; but Tulsa currently remains near the bottom of the list. And even remaining low on the list requires spending over $100,000 a year on arbitration, lawyers and forensic accountants. The FOP has been contemplating changing the tactics to just comparing Oklahoma cities instead of a nation wide group. If such happens, Tulsa, being the second largest city in the state, would rank about fifth in wages.

As a result of the last city council meeting, the FOP dissected Mr. Martinson's presentation slide by slide in light of the most currently available data. The FOP believes that the data presented by Martinson was out of date and to the direct benefit of his budget proposal. The below link to the original budget proposal is: http://www.johneagleton.com/documents/20090618-C5-Budget-Presentation-v.2.ppt

There are some interesting points of data that were available, yet were "hidden" from his presentation. Most 2008 crime data was available, but Martinson chose not to present it since the outcomes were antithetical to his point.

For example, slide 48:
Violent crime, 1997: 4,596
Violent crime, 2007: 4,552

But in 2008, there were 4,992 violent crimes--from the data in Martinson's own presentation. That's an 8% INCREASE IN CRIME. Also, Martinson cites a "73% explainable variation" co-relation of unemployment and crimes on slide 30. Crime peaked when unemployment hit 6.5 in 2003.
The Tulsa World just reported that Tulsa's crime rate is now 6.3%.

If Martinson's historical perspective is true, then we should prepare for increased crime according to the same variation. On Martinson's own terms, the "historical variation" suggests about 31,500 crimes will occur--versus the 28,500 he portrayed in 2007.
So, that would portend a 10% CRIME INCREASE. According to Martinson's proposal we would have to fight 10% more crime--with 149 fewer officers. There are many issues with the actions of Thursday's night City Council Meeting. The Fraternal Order of Police believes the public needs to be aware of the course the four councilors were attempting to chart. If the Mr. Martinson would have received one more vote, the Citizens would have woken up July 1, 2009 with 149 fewer police officers, and approximately 120 fewer fire fighters.

Councilor G. T. Bynum, who voted for the Mayor's budget, wrote previously that "under our contracts [with police officers and firefighters] we can't reduce salaries/benefits so the result of [Martinson's] proposal would have been to lay off 20% of our police and firefighting forces.

Tonight the Tulsa City Council approved Mayor Kathy Taylor's budget by a vote of 5-4. The budget reflects deep cuts due to falling revenues and includes mandatory unpaid furloughs for city employees.

The four councilors who voted against Taylor's budget supported an alternative by Councilor Bill Martinson. Before your knee jerks and you assume Martinson was motivated by sheer partisanship, head over to Councilor John Eagleton's website and download Martinson's budget presentation. It's an 8 MB PowerPoint file, but it's eye-opening and worth the trouble. (For number crunchers, the raw numbers behind the charts and graphs are embedded in the PowerPoint file.)

The presentation highlights the growth of Police and Fire Departments' share of the budget over the last 40 years, during which time the police and fire budget has more than tripled in constant dollars, while land area and population have grown by 13% and 17% respectively. So even if you had expected the police and fire budget to grow proportionately to population and land area and in line with inflation, the current budget is two-and-a-half times bigger than you would expect based on those factors.

Over the same 40 year period, police and fire personnel have only grown from 1,151 to 1,612, only about a 50% increase, despite the inflation-adjusted tripling of the budget.

In 1968-9, police and fire (including capital equipment) made up 32% of the General Fund. In 2008-9, police and fire (excluding capital equipment, which is now paid for from the Third Penny fund) makes up 57% of the General Fund.

Here's another way to look at it: In the current fiscal year (2008-9), the first two cents of the sales tax, which goes to the General Fund, were budgeted to bring in $142.8 million in revenue. The Police and Fire Departments budget for 2008-9: $142.8 million.

The problem isn't payroll, evidently: From 1999-2000 to the budget for 2009-2010, the police and fire budget grew by 35% (not adjusted for inflation) while the number of employees shrank from 1660 to 1597.

What about the City's many other areas of responsibility -- neighborhood inspections, parks and recreation, internal auditing, the legal department, human resources? Martinson provides several examples where a department has increased its revenues while cutting expenses, effectively, as Martinson puts it, "donat[ing] revenue to the Police and Fire Departments."

According to Martinson, Taylor's budget, revised for new, lower revenue forecasts, would put the combined police and fire budget at 105.23% of the projected General Fund sales tax revenue. Martinson proposes cutting that number and restoring $3.9 million in funding for materials for keeping our roads drivable (salt, sand, concrete, and aggregate), nuisance abatement, animal welfare, mowing, security and recreation programs for public housing, and other basic purposes.

Go read the whole thing, and let me know what you think.

UPDATE: Via e-mail, Councilor G. T. Bynum provides some perspective on Martinson's presentation and his vote in favor of Taylor's budget:

I thought Bill's analysis was pretty powerful when it came to the increase in funding not equating to an increase in manpower. At the same time, under our contracts we can't reduce salaries/benefits so the result of his proposal would have been to lay off 20% of our police and firefighting forces. That was too much for me.

In a later e-mail, Bynum wrote, "Whomever negotiates our next round of contracts needs to do a better job of protecting the City's flexibility."

gtbynum-tulsacouncil.jpgTulsa City Councilor G. T. Bynum sent out an email today announcing his decision to run for re-election to his District 9 post, rather than running for the mayor's seat left open by Kathy Taylor's decision not to run for re-election.

Bynum's decision leaves five councilors who have not officially announced their intentions regarding the mayor's race. Rick Westcott (District 2) and Bill Christiansen (District 8) have both said they're considering the race.

Here is Bynum's announcement, posted with his permission.

Family, Friends & Neighbors:

In the week since Mayor Taylor's surprise announcement that she would not seek a second term, many of you have emailed and called me with your encouragement to run for mayor. I can not convey how much it means to me that, based on my work in a brief time on the Council, you would enthusiastically entrust me with what I honestly believe is a sacred duty: managing the day-to-day affairs of the city in which we live with the people we love.

That is what drew me to run for the Council: the people I love live here, and I want the place where they live to be the best it can be. That has guided all of my decisions on the Council.

But with a rambunctious 2-year-old at home and a baby due in September, the people I love the most - our young and growing family - need me right now as a husband and Dad. Those are more important jobs to me than being mayor. I am also not so full of myself as to think I don't have anything to learn before seeking such an important public office.

I am hopeful that someone with political courage will step forward in this race, because that is what our City needs: performance audits of all departments, utility rates in line with costs, a clearly-defined and strategic partnership with the County, a second streets proposal to finish the work of the first, river development, and a bipartisan approach to governance. All of these will be tough, some of them will be unpopular, but all of them are needed. These are the issues I would have focused on as a mayoral candidate, and these are the ones I will focus on in my re-election campaign for City Council District 9.

The City Council is a tremendous opportunity for citizens to play a part in the life of our City without the taxing impact on family life that comes with the job of mayor. I love my work on the Council, and am eager to seek another term.

For all of you who have encouraged me to run for mayor, I'm honored by your faith in me.


Photo from the Tulsa City Council website.

HelenAlvarez1952-200.jpgI'm in the throes of a major effort at work and only have time to throw you a few links to good reading elsewhere:

For your viewing pleasure, Tulsa TV Memories links to the Life archive and photos from February 1952 of KOTV general manager Helen Alvarez. Besides photos of the lovely Mrs. Alvarez, the archive shows the Channel 6 news, weather, and sports sets of the day, plus photos from the Sun Refinery and of a powwow. (Does this qualify as a Rule 5 post?)

Irritated Tulsan discovers that the Boulder Ave. bridge is safe enough -- for the crane that's demolishing it.

Steve Roemerman has posted a new podcast, reacting to Councilor G. T. Bynum's comments during last week's ballpark assessment vote.

Chris Medlock has a new podcast up
, reacting to comments about city election "reform" made by former Mayor Susan Savage. And he talks to State Sen. Randy Brogdon about the legislative session and the gubernatorial campaign.

I've got some thoughts about the Council's 5-4 vote to approve the assessment roll of the Tulsa Stadium Improvement District -- the controversial funding mechanism for funding the Tulsa Drillers new downtown baseball stadium -- but no time right now. Watch for something Monday morning.

Steven Roemerman has posted some hard-hitting commentary about the vote. It has extra relevance as the mayoral race looms near. It's a hard thing to say, "wait," or "no," when everyone is shouting that we must act and must act now. It's even harder to do that from inside a baseball mascot costume. Steven's commentary:

An excerpt from the second of the three entries:

Aside from the citizens exercising their right to vote her out of office, the Council is the only check and balance to the Mayor. It is the Council's duty to flush out such things before passing something as weighty as a 64,900% increase on a downtown assessment on the citizens of Tulsa. To complain now is sad and pathetic. Moreover, the very idea that Councilor Christiansen is thinking about running for Mayor now after this fiasco is insulting and scary.

Tulsa's Mayor has a lot of power, and the person that sits behind that desk on the top floor of the One Technology Center needs to be a strong leader, one who makes the tough calls, and flushes out all the details before making important decisions. We do not need a follower that stands in the Council chambers complaining that they cannot see past the next action they will take.

ackbar.jpgI haven't been watching much TV lately, but I'm told that Mayor Kathy Taylor's valedictory ads, trumpeting her record as mayor, have already begun to run on local stations.

I spoke to someone this morning who has some direct, recent experience with advertising on local TV. He says there's no way you could decide on a Thursday not to run for re-election and the next day start running TV ads. It takes at least two weeks to line up air time. It also takes time -- days, not hours -- to write, shoot, and produce a minute-long commercial that is as well-done as Taylor's "I'm not running" ad. This suggests that the decision not to run was made at least two weeks ago.

His speculation is that the ads are intended to create a groundswell of support for her to reverse course and run for re-election. Taylor is benefiting from news stories reviewing her term of office as if she's already gone. Her fans on local message boards are shouting down any criticism of her performance. For the next month, she can pose as someone above the fray of politics, as her potential successors jockey for funding and support. Then she can file at the last minute for re-election, reluctantly submitting to a draft.

What's the benefit of such a scenario? Here's one possibility: Before Taylor announced her withdrawal, the question among Republicans was who would "draw the short straw," "take one for the team," and run an almost certainly futile campaign against someone able to spend a million dollars on her own re-election. You can't run for mayor and run at the same time for re-election as councilor, so it would be hard to convince more than one councilor to abandon easy re-election for a doomed effort.

But if she's out of the picture, it suddenly becomes conceivable that you could raise the funds for a successful race for an open seat. Two, maybe three Republican councilors throw their hats in the ring, thinking the odds are worth the risk. In this scenario, Taylor lines up her allies to run for those now-open council seats, then jumps back into the mayor's race at the last minute, after the councilors have already filed to run for mayor, too late to back out and run for re-election. Taylor gets back in for another term with a more compliant council that won't challenge her decisions.

Even if Taylor doesn't re-enter the race, it's almost certain that there is an anointed successor waiting in the wings, possibly someone capable of self-funding to the same degree as Taylor. This scenario could still serve as a trap, luring councilors away from seeking re-election to safe seats, putting together last minute citywide campaign teams, and finding themselves up against an experienced campaign organization ready to do battle.

In 2002, when J. C. Watts announced at the last minute that he wouldn't run for re-election to Congress, only one potential replacement wasn't caught flat-footed: His longtime political adviser Tom Cole, who went on to win the seat. Cole drew some primary opposition from Marc Nuttle, and with several months to raise money Nuttle, with his connections to national conservative organizations, could have been a formidable candidate. Instead, Nuttle had only six weeks from Watts' announcement to election day in which to decide to run, organize a campaign, raise money, and meet voters. On primary night, Cole had 60% to Nuttle's 33%.

The scenario presented by my friend was intriguing, but I'm still inclined to believe that Taylor is setting herself up to run against Congressman John Sullivan next year. It would look crass if she said anything now, while he's still in rehab, but if she waited until he returns -- beginning of July at the earliest -- it wouldn't leave much time before the city filing period for someone else to get ready to run. The "I'm rising above politics to take care of the city" approach would get her out of the mayor's race, make room for someone else to get in, without seeming insensitive.

You may wonder why I'm not taking her at face value. She can very easily run the city and run for mayor at the same time. It's not like a statewide race where you have to travel incessantly to campaign. And it's not as though she has to knock doors, call voters, and lick envelopes herself. As mayor, campaigning or not, she'll be out in the community. She could do her job and then pay her PR people and campaign advisers to spin her record and get her message to the voters. There's something else going on here, and the decision to run slickly-produced campaign ads after officially "ending" her campaign only solidifies that suspicion.

UPDATE: Rusty at the OKDemocrat forum notes media interest in the story.

Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor has issued a press release saying she will not be running for re-election. She will hold a press conference at 5:30 at the Tulsa Press Club.

More as it develops.

UPDATE 6:15 pm: Taylor spoke very briefly and did not answer questions. She spent a minute or two greeting well-wishers like Tulsa Metro Chamber head Mike Neal, Convention and Visitors Bureau head Suzanne Stewart, and Sharon King Davis.

Taylor began her remarks with a list of accomplishments: A hangar for American Airlines to keep maintenance jobs here, completing the BOK Center, coping with the ice storm of 2007, "amazing progress" on the river, the entrepreneurial spirit awards, finding mentors for 400 students, and finalizing plans for the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park before Franklin's death.

Taylor decried a focus on personalities and partisan politics and expressed hope that stepping down would help the Council do the right thing with regard to the ballpark. (Tonight is the final vote on the assessment roll for the Tulsa Stadium Improvement District.)

Taylor said the primary reason for not running was to ensure the economic viability of Tulsa. She claimed that "we've turned this city around." She said she needed to be running the city, not running a political campaign. As she makes tough budget decisions, she doesn't want a partisan political cloud over decision making.

Taylor said she had no plans for the future but would continue to pursue her passions: education, small business, and greening Tulsa.

MORE: Taylor's letter to city employees at 5:30 this evening:

Together, we have opened a world-class arena, moved city hall to a modern and high-tech new space, seen amazing progress on the revitalization of downtown, made a significant commitment to our streets infrastructure, created new education opportunities for our children and recruited hundreds of mentors for at-risk kids. We have promoted health programs, had success with our "biggest loser" wellness program and worked side by side with community leaders with the shared goal of making our neighborhoods safer.

We have launched new initiatives in the areas of energy efficiency and we have pulled resources together to honor the many veterans and military families in Tulsa. We have made city government more efficient because of your participation in High Performance Government and our green initiatives are saving energy costs in departments throughout the city. We have supported emerging businesses with our Entrepreneurship Week and Spirit Awards and thousands of Tulsans have given us their input through our city's comprehensive planning process.

All of these initiatives and many many more have culminated in a record of amazing progress for the city we love. It is a record you can be proud of and I want to personally thank you for all you have done to make it possible!

Because of the serious budget and economic challenges we are facing, the next 6 months are going to be pivotal and frankly, very difficult for our City. Tough decisions will have to be made that may not be popular, but they will be fiscally responsible- and they will help secure Tulsa's future.

I have been in public service now for 6 years -- first as Secretary of Commerce and Tourism for the State and these last years as your Mayor. Amazing things can be accomplished when private citizens get engaged in their community.

Thank you again for your hard work and for allowing me to be a part of this great team of city employees.

It is an honor I will value forever.

Kathy Taylor,

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa City Hall category from June 2009.

Tulsa City Hall: May 2009 is the previous archive.

Tulsa City Hall: August 2009 is the next archive.

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