Tulsa City Hall: September 2010 Archives

The cover story in this week's Urban Tulsa Weekly is a profile of Tulsa District 9 City Councilor G. T. Bynum. Reporter Mike Easterling has written an interesting story about a significant figure in Tulsa politics, and he includes extensive quotes from Jack Henderson and Rick Westcott, Bynum's colleagues from Districts 1 and 2; former Sen. Don Nickles, Bynum's first boss in Washington; and me.

As the article noted, I like G. T. personally, but I've been disappointed with many of his decisions on the council. At the same time, as I told Mike Easterling, although the point didn't make it into the story, I appreciate G.T.'s leadership on the charter change that requires the council to sign off on large lawsuit settlements and the new proposal to require the city to save money when times are flush, rather than expanding government. (That said, I still wonder why he wasn't helping Bill Martinson when Martinson was trying to get Mayor Taylor to deal forthrightly with the city's fiscal crisis last summer.)

Another admirable aspect that came out in the story is Bynum's respect for the City Council as an institution, the city's legislative body. However you may feel about the current membership of the Council at any given time, it has an important role to play in representing Tulsa's diversity, crafting legislation, and providing oversight of our city government. In the early years under our current charter, a majority of councilors seemed to see themselves as mere rubber stamps or window dressing. 2004 and the advent of the Gang of Five began to change that outlook; Dewey Bartlett has cemented the City Council's identity as an independent co-equal branch of government:

One of the great ironies of the situation, he acknowledged, is that it has unified the council like never before.

"If you look back, every mayor's had problems with councilors," he said. "Mayor Taylor had problems with some councilors, Bill LaFortune did, Susan Savage did. But none of them have had unanimous problems before. I'm hopeful that the mayor'll take that as a sign that he needs to work in a more cooperative fashion with the council. And I say that as someone who worked on his campaign and grew up looking up to him."

Also worth pondering from the story was the quote from the late Sen. Paul Coverdell that Bynum has written where he'll see it often: "If you have been given a moment here, you should not let the dust grow under you."

(Coverdell, by the way, beat an incumbent senator, Wyche Fowler, thanks to a general election runoff. The Libertarian candidate split off some of the anti-incumbent vote, and Fowler finished first at the 1992 general election, but without a majority of the vote. Under Georgia law at the time, a runoff was held three weeks later, and Coverdell won narrowly.)

Conservative parents of politically-aware young people should also take to heart what Bynum had to say about his experience as a congressional staffer:

"It was wonderful," he said of that period in his life. "For a young person interested in government, there are few things you can do that give you so much access and opportunity as working on Capitol Hill. I do encourage any young Oklahomans who are interested in government to do it.

"I think that's one of the great secrets about our government that a lot of people aren't aware of is Capitol Hill is largely staffed by people under 30 years of age because they're the only ones who'll work that cheap and that hard. And so you get a tremendous amount of responsibility, and you learn a tremendous amount. That experience was really formative for me."

On the negative side of the ledger, it was interesting to read that Bynum's support for the defeated 2007 Tulsa County sales tax increase helped him decide to seek a seat on the Council:

But there were other, more worldly factors motivating him, as well. Bynum and his wife were big supporters of the 2007 Our River Yes! campaign for a sales tax increase that would have funded $282 million in improvements to the Arkansas River, and they were not happy to see it go down in defeat.

"When it failed, I was really disappointed in the response of the leaders of the city, which seemed to me to be, 'We'll wait 10 years and then try again,'" Bynum said. "Working in the Senate, I'd known that when we had a bill that was really important and it failed, we went back to the drawing board and found what things we needed to fix in order to get the votes to win. We didn't just say, 'Oh, well, it's over, we'll try again 10 years from now.' "

Bynum characterizes the river as the biggest untapped asset in the city and believes it has the capacity to become Tulsa's biggest economic driver. Earning himself a seat on the City Council, he believed, would provide him with the chance to champion that belief.

It's hard to believe that any intelligent person would believe in the river as "Tulsa's biggest economic driver." And while Bynum talks about his libertarian leanings, it's hard to see how having government taking a bigger share of everyone's money is consistent with a libertarian perspective.

And what was libertarian about the ballpark deal, which Bynum supported? Is it libertarian to take money by force from owners of distant property who will see negligible benefit from a facility built to house a private entertainment company?

It's also hard to see what's libertarian about a city policy that will be used to penalize people for a sort of thought crime. What Bynum's non-discrimination policy amounts to is a ban on taking any notice of a major component of a person's psyche and character. When Bynum says that sexual orientation "has nothing to do with job performance," he's effectively saying that it never has anything to do with job performance under any circumstances, a view that is not universally shared but which, thanks to Bynum's leadership, is now universally imposed.

(My blog entries at the time explain in more detail why I feel Bynum "didn't really understand the issue from a conservative perspective" and seemed to ignore the long-range consequences of the decision: G. T. Bynum's sexual orientation proposal, Bynum gay proposition on council agenda tonight.)

I seem to recall that, when he spoke to the conservative Tulsa Area Republican Assembly back in 2008, when he was running for office, he used the word conservative a lot, and talked about his work for Sen. Coburn. I don't recall him making any use of the word libertarian.

Regarding Bynum's new lobbying business, Easterling writes that I "described [the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF)] as Bynum's biggest client." That's true, but I didn't leave it to opinion or speculation. I pointed the UTW reporter to the Senate Office of Public Responsibility's Lobbying Disclosure Act database, which shows that G. T. Bynum Consulting, LLC, reported $30,000 in lobbying income from GKFF for the first and second quarters of 2010, and $20,000 from Williams and Williams (Bynum's former employer) over the same period. (Over the entire length of Bynum's lobbying career, the two are currently tied; Bynum began lobbying for Williams and Williams in the 4th quarter of 2009.)

To clarify my concern about Bynum representing GKFF as a lobbyist and serving on the City Council: GKFF is actively engaged in civic and governmental issues here in Tulsa, as are closely related individuals and entities. George Kaiser is a significant political donor in local elections, as is the BOK Financial Political Action Committee. Kaiser and GKFF were heavily involved in the 2007 Tulsa County sales tax increase for river improvements and in the downtown Drillers stadium deal, to name two recent examples of their engagement in local political issues. I cannot think of another example of an elected official at one level of government simultaneously serving as a lobbyist at another level of government. It would be a different matter if Bynum limited his lobbying practice to organizations and businesses that had no interest in City Hall affairs.

By the way, Bynum's 2010 second quarter disclosure form reveals that the job he created -- the other lobbyist he hired -- is Stuart McCalman, who was Governmental Affairs Director under Mayor Kathy Taylor, and who continued in that role under Bartlett, until his involvement in the Mayor/Council dispute over the JAG grant and police layoffs.

FLASHBACK: G. T. Bynum's statements on the ballpark assessment district in 2008, with commentary by Steven Roemerman.

About this Archive

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

Tulsa City Hall: August 2010 is the previous archive.

Tulsa City Hall: October 2010 is the next archive.

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



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]