Tulsa City Hall: May 2010 Archives

I was fairly stunned to see the following message, from Tulsa District 9 City Councilor G. T. Bynum, on my Facebook news feed Thursday afternoon:

Proud to see Civil Service Commission approve proposal by Councilor Barnes & me banning City HR discrimination based on sexual orientation.

(Bynum crossposted the same comment to Twitter.)

I wasn't surprised to see District 4 Councilor Maria Barnes's name in connection with the proposal. She's a social liberal, and when I endorsed her for City Council, I felt certain that there would be at least six socially conservative councilors to block any left-wing initiative or appointment. I'm wondering now if I counted wrong.

Amid hearty attaboys from Bynum's left-of-center Facebook friends, I asked the question, "Why did you feel this was an important issue to push at the moment?" My question was seen by one of Bynum's congratulators as an attack, and I was instructed to "get with the program" because "it's the 21st century" -- this from a Democratic ally on fiscal issues who surely knows me well enough to know I don't leap aboard bandwagons. In response I said I thought it was a fair question and one with interesting implications for Bynum's political future.

Bynum responded a few hours later:

Michael, I think it's a very fair question. I spoke at a council candidate forum put on by Oklahomans For Equality back during the campaign, and the issue was raised that gay and lesbian employees of the Tulsa City government don't enjoy the same protections as those in other cities. I was surprised, and agreed to do what I could to fix that situation. As a conservative who believes in keeping the government out of our private lives, I don't think an employee's sexual orientation is the City's business and shouldn't play a role in HR. As to my political future, an old mentor of mine wisely advised me after I got elected to the Council that if I made decisions based on my political future I'd be a lousy elected official. I try to keep that advice in mind.

(As I reread that quote, I thought, "Wouldn't it be nice if GT Bynum were as devoted to giving Tulsa's historic buildings, neighborhoods, and commercial districts the kind of protections that they enjoy in other cities?" His vote last Thursday night in support of Eric Gomez's nomination to the TMAPC isn't an encouraging sign.)

I would have thought that a conservative who worked for Senator Tom Coburn would be able to see through noble-sounding phrases like "Oklahomans for Equality" and "anti-discrimination" to the reality of the agenda or program underlying those words -- you know, the program I'm supposed to get with because it's the 21st century. I'd have thought a conservative would object to the term "sexual orientation," with its implication of the unscientific notion of the "gay gene" and its undermining of one's personal responsibility for one's sexual choices.

Most of all, I'd have thought a conservative who worked for Tom Coburn would get the idea of unintended consequences. The real effect of Bynum's push to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation is to add another pretext for someone to sue the city. An unsuccessful job applicant, a city employee passed over for a promotion, someone demoted or dismissed for poor performance -- any of them could claim "it's because I'm gay" and file a formal complaint.

With such a complaint, the focus shifts from the performance, attitude, and capabilities of the disgruntled employee or applicant to the moral opinions of the manager or supervisor who made the decision. The supervisor would be hauled up before the Civil Rights Commission and Exhibit A in the hearing would be the paperback New Testament on her bookshelf or the poster on her cubicle wall of a basket of kittens with a verse of scripture beneath. The supervisor's membership in a church that teaches that homosexual behavior is sinful (e.g., Bynum's own Roman Catholic Church) would be create a presumption of guilt that the supervisor's hiring decision or disciplinary action was based in bigotry.

After the system makes an example of a couple of city supervisors, they'll learn to cut their "out and proud" homosexual employees extra slack, just to avoid the hassle of justifying themselves to the Civil Rights Commission. This sort of thing is already happening in Europe and Canada. Ultimately, "anti-discrimination" laws to protect homosexuals are used to persecute those who hold to views of sexual morality which within living memory spanned all major religions and all civilized cultures and which are still held by the vast majority of Oklahomans.

It should also be said that the proposal backed by Bynum puts the city in the position of taking a moral and religious stand that makes abnormal sexual behavior morally equivalent to being born with a certain skin color or coming from a certain ethnic background.

I'm disappointed that a professed conservative like G. T. Bynum wouldn't understand all this. I'm hopeful that the conservatives on the City Council will use their power to overturn the proposal.


I was surprised to learn recently that G. T. Bynum was no longer with Williams & Williams but had set up his own Federal lobbying firm. GT Bynum Consulting has three clients listed with the Senate Office of Public Records as of April 25, 2010, according to OpenSecrets.org (fields are client, total, and industry):

  • George Kaiser Family Foundation, $20,000, Human Rights
  • Williams & Williams Marketing Services, $10,000, Unknown Business
  • City of Miami, FL, $0, Civil Servants

Last year, in 2009, GKFF gave all of its Washington lobbying business -- $150,000 -- to powerhouse law firm Akin Gump. So far in 2010, GKFF has spent $40,000, divided evenly between Akin Gump and G. T. Bynum.


Here's an example of the use of "diversity" and "non-discrimination" policies to punish dissenting views of homosexuality: Crystal Dixon was fired by the University of Toledo for a letter to the local newspaper, as a private individual, objecting to the misappropriation of the legacy of the civil rights movement by homosexual rights activists. Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Professor Rob Gagnon wrote a letter supporting Dixon and citing studies in peer-reviewed journal that undercut claims that same-sex attraction is as ingrained as skin color.

Pete Vere, co-author with Kathy Shaidle of Tyranny of Nice, explains how "Canada's human rights commissions and tribunals, originally founded to help socially-disadvantaged minorities seek redress against racism in government housing and services, have now turned their sights on Christians and pro-lifers," citing several examples both north and south of the 49th Parallel, including the case of the Christian owner of a small Toronto print shop fined for refusing to print stationery for a homosexual organization and the case of a Georgia counselor who was fired because she referred a lesbian couple to another counselor in the same office, citing a conflict with her religious convictions.

In a 2007 Daily Telegraph op-ed, James Mackay, former Lord Chancellor under two Conservative prime ministers, considers the impact of an anti-discrimination regulation then proposed by the Labour government on those who object to homosexual behavior on religious grounds.


I'm not really interested in hearing from people who want to attack those who hold to traditional views of sexual behavior, and I won't be approving any comments along those lines. I am interested in hearing from social conservatives who want to debate for or against Bynum's actions from a social conservative perspective.

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr's nomination of ousted City Councilor Eric Gomez to the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission is on tonight's City Council agenda. The nomination is likely to be defeated by a supermajority, based on public statements by the councilors, but it's still worth expressing your concern to your councilor, particularly if your councilor has expressed support for Gomez's nomination. If you're wondering why you should be concerned, please read my earlier entry on Eric Gomez's TMAPC nomination, which links to earlier evaluations of his record on zoning and development issues.

By the way, I notice that the agenda for tonight's meeting includes no backup information on Eric Gomez or the other mayoral nominees being considered tonight. The Council usually gets a fact sheet on each nominee, with a resume. Certainly a prospective planning commissioner's sources of income would be a matter of public interest, and in this case there are rumors of a connection between Gomez and a developer who is notoriously hostile to homeowners; those rumors need to be either confirmed or dispelled.

Under Oklahoma's Open Meetings Act, public bodies like cities are required to post agendas for upcoming meetings, so that citizens will know what issues may be discussed and what action may be taken. At the old Tulsa City Hall, this was accomplished by means of a cork bulletin board, inside a glass case near the walkway between City Hall and the council chamber. You could drive by any hour of the day or night and see the agenda for the City Council, the housing authority, the sign advisory board, and any other authority, board, commission, or task force.

At Tulsa's new City Hall, One Technology Center, the old school cork board has been replaced with a high-tech electronic display. Last week, that display failed to show the agenda for Thursday night's meeting when it failed to reboot automatically. As a result, the regular City Council meeting had to be postponed to last night, Monday.

The electronic system was touted as foolproof, over the objection of skeptics, like Council administrator Don Cannon:

Council Administrator Don Cannon said he's frustrated because he and others warned city officials that something like this could easily happen.

"We told them that a hard-copy backup was needed just in case," he said.

Cannon said he intends to post paper copies of the council's agendas by the television screens until some other backup system is developed. Monday's agendas were physically posted Thursday afternoon.

"The risk is just not worth it," he said. "There's a lot of things that are uncontrollable, but this is controllable."

City Councilor John Eagleton, the only councilor to vote against the City's acquisition of One Technology Center, had a brief comment about the situation: "I told you so."

It's a story from February 1, 2010, but I just saw it this week, via Troy Sappington on Facebook: a story in the London (Ontario) Free Press that prominently featured comments from Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr on police salaries and layoffs. The story was part of a series entitled "Protection at What Cost?: An occasional series examining the soaring cost of emergency services.

Three years after they're sworn in on the force, in some cases with little more than the minimum high school diploma and 12 weeks' training, London police officers get a base salary that tops $80,000.

That wouldn't surprise other police and firefighters in Ontario, whose salaries are closely tethered by unions that demand it and police boards that often give in.

But south of the border, jaws drop.

In U.S. cities where there are more murders in a month than London has in a year, police are surprised when told how much police are paid here and how that has changed so quickly over time.

"It's really a death spiral," said Dewey Bartlett Jr., mayor of Tulsa, Okla., where senior officers max out at $62,783 US.

Bartlett, too, deals with police unions and did so last week without an arms-length police board or provincial arbitrator to get in his way.

With Tulsa facing a budget crisis and needing to cut $7 million from its police budget, Bartlett gave cops a choice: Agree to a 5% wage cut and rollbacks or he'd lay off 155 officers -- nearly 20% of the force.

The police association said no.

Last Friday, police administrators were preparing pink slips.

"In this part of the country, unions aren't a way of life. (The police association) was selfish and greedy, rather than what people expect of a police officer," Bartlett said.

What wasn't said in the story was that similar cuts were required from other city departments. The Firefighters Union made a different choice than the FOP, picking pay cuts over layoffs.

The story goes on to look at the pros and cons of high police salaries in London, where a "three-year officer is paid nearly 2 1/2 times more than a typical London adult," and the disconnect in Ontario between those who set police salaries and those responsible for setting municipal budget priorities.

MORE: Stephen Malanga in the Spring 2010 City Journal on the role of government employee unions (teachers', public safety, and SEIU) in California's budget crisis.

"He is either totally clueless or absolutely in your face, one of the two."

"I guess he wants everybody mad at him."

"He's appointing a councilor that threatened to sue one of his constituents over a planning issue to the planning commission?"

Eric Gomez, former Tulsa City CouncilorThose were the instantaneous reactions of my lovely bride to the news that Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr has nominated former Councilor Eric Gomez to the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. ("He" meaning Mayor Bartlett Jr.)

At this moment, the TMAPC is considering whether to approve a new comprehensive plan, deciding whether to substantially approve the plan that came out of the two-year-long PLANiTULSA process or whether to remodel it to suit a couple of squeaky-wheel developers named John Bumgarner and Joe Westervelt -- developers who happen to have donated to Eric Gomez's recent unsuccessful campaign for City Council. Bartlett Jr's nomination of Gomez sends a clear message to the thousands of Tulsans who invested their hopes and energy into the PLANiTULSA process: It's going to be business as usual -- a continuation of the bad land use planning decisions of the past -- if Bartlett Jr gets his way.

Before last fall's election, I set out a long list of bad decisions by Eric Gomez during his brief, single term of office. One prime example: Approving Bumgarner's Folly -- a straight rezoning of most of a large, formerly residential block near Cherry Street, a block that is now vacant and apparently will be for a long time:

During his term of office, Eric Gomez has offered no resistance to bad development plans that set bad precedents. Now we're stuck with an ugly open lot at 14th and Utica where there used to be homes and sturdy brick apartment buildings. Gomez voted to rezone that land to OH -- Office High Intensity. It was a straight rezoning, not a PUD, so (under our outdated zoning code) there are no requirements to encourage compatibility with the investments of neighboring property owners. Gomez accepted the developer's proposal to put development conditions in a covenant, which could only be enforced by the city filing a lawsuit, rather than a PUD, which can be enforced by administrative action.

Gomez voted for the PUD for the Bomasada development on 39th east of Peoria, despite the project's violation of the very recently adopted Brookside Infill Plan, which is officially part of our Comprehensive Plan.

Both projects have been halted by the economy's decline, but we're stuck with the bad zoning decisions regardless, and the precedents they set to put development conditions in hard-to-enforce covenants and to ignore a recently crafted and adopted portion of the Comprehensive Plan.

As I wrote in endorsing Eric Gomez's defeat last November:

One of the key issues at this point in Tulsa's history, as we move toward adoption of a new Comprehensive Plan, is whether we have land use rules that are fair, clear, consistently applied, and that encourage compatible new development or whether we continue to allow developers to warp those rules and to build in ways that undermine the investments of neighboring property owners. Maria Barnes is on the right side of that issue. Eric Gomez is on the wrong side.

And as my wife noted, Eric Gomez is emphatically on the wrong side of the related issues of (a) keeping homeowners in the dark and (b) threatening to sue someone for criticizing his political actions.

While I supported Gomez in 2004, when he ran as a neighborhood advocate against the development lobby's pick -- incumbent Tom Baker -- he's changed since then. Now a developer himself, he's wholeheartedly adopted the agenda of the "build anything I want anywhere I want" development community, and he's attacked even mild, watered-down versions of the kinds of laws our peer cities use to allow change to occur in a predictable way that protects the stability and character of neighborhoods.

In answer to the question in the title of this post: No, I don't think Mayor Bartlett Jr is serious about his nomination of Eric Gomez. Gomez has at most three supporters on the council, and I suspect those three are mainly a matter of friendship rather than endorsement of his planning philosophy. This nomination is a delaying tactic, I believe, to reset the 60-day clock and prevent the City Council from appointing Al Nichols, a long-time neighborhood leader from east Tulsa who would bring both geographical and (as someone not involved in real estate or development) professional balance to the TMAPC.

A political friend of mine opined that Councilor Maria Barnes (who was beaten by Gomez in 2008 and beat him in 2009) would "show her [posterior]" over this appointment -- in other words, make a fool of herself by loudly opposing the nomination of her political rival. I disagreed. She doesn't have to say a word and likely won't. A majority of her colleagues are already well aware that Eric Gomez is the wrong choice for the TMAPC, particularly at this crucial time in the development of a Tulsa's first comprehensive plan in a generation.

MORE: Here's an example of Eric Gomez's philosophy of zoning from a 2008 candidate forum:

"Doesn't all zoning infringe on property rights, and if so, why is the idea of conservation district different from that? Why is it a further infringement on property rights that are already infringed by zoning?"

Gomez's verbatim reply: "We already regulate land use. We already regulate what you can and cannot do with your property. When people buy a property, they look at what the policies are, they understand what the zoning is, and if that should change, there has to be a--it's a fine line, I believe, between private property rights and zoning, and absent of covenants that are not easily enforceable, when you buy a property in an older neighborhood--I live in an older neighborhood--you do understand that these things may happen and it, um..." As his voice trailed off to a mumble, he sat down.

AND FINALLY: At a candidate forum last fall, Eric Gomez responded to a question (click for video) about public officials suing their constituents, as he threatened to do, but he wasn't too excited about his response being recorded for posterity.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa City Hall category from May 2010.

Tulsa City Hall: April 2010 is the previous archive.

Tulsa City Hall: June 2010 is the next archive.

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