Tulsa City Hall: March 2011 Archives

Yesterday, the 2011 Tulsa County Republican Convention unanimously approved the recommendation of the convention's platform committee to be the Tulsa County Republican Party's official platform. The platform includes clear stands on several current city and county issues. Here is the local section of the platform in its entirety:


1. We support strengthening protections for Real Estate owners against arbitrary zoning changes, which damage property values.

2. We oppose the use of eminent domain by any government for private benefit.

3. We believe that public safety - police and fire protection - should be a priority in the city budget, using existing sources of revenue. We oppose a special tax increase or Federal Grant to fund public safety.

4. We oppose any tax increase without demonstrated public need.

5. We oppose any public-private partnerships and also use of public powers such as eminent domain granting private for-profit entities the right to use public powers of eminent domain to build and operate toll roads and bridges.

6. We oppose the practice of "land-banking" by any government board within Tulsa County.

7. We support the repeal of Title 11, Section 22-104.1 of the Oklahoma Statutes which enables a municipal corporation to engage in any business it is authorized to license.

8. We do not support any sales tax, either municipal or county, levied for river development.

9. We do not support city non-partisan elections or the current movement to change the Tulsa City Charter to allow such.

10. We oppose the renewal of the "Four to Fix the County" sales tax.

11. We oppose all efforts to add a Charter Amendment which would add at-large Councilors, elected city wide, to the Tulsa City Council.

12. We support the Tulsa City Council having its own attorney, answerable only to the City Council and independent of any other branch of city government.

13. We oppose the use of City of Tulsa municipal tax dollars to fund the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce.

I'll be interested to see if Tulsa County Democrats take equally clear, bold positions on these issues at their convention next weekend.

CORRECTION: I originally began this entry referring to a Steve Lackmeyer tweet about a Tulsa news story making his head hurt. Because the link he tweeted led to a "Latest News" page on the Tulsa Whirled's mobile website -- at least it did on the browser on my smart phone -- and the Tulsa County GOP convention was the top story at that time, I thought Steve was referring to that story. In fact, he was referring to a Whirled editorial about Tulsa mayor Dewey Bartlett's veto of a Council resolution rescinding the election for a charter amendment. My apologies for the misunderstanding, and here's the rest of the blog entry.

"This" was a web story by Whirled reporter Randy Krehbiel about Saturday's GOP convention. I'd love to give you my own report, but work prevented me from attending. Steven Roemerman was there, and I'm looking forward to a report on his blog at some point, but for now, all he had to say was that the 10-hour-long event gave him a headache.

John Tidwell, communications director for John Sullivan, tweeted the election results in real-time. To summarize (links lead to a tweet about the candidate or race):

Chairman: J. B. Alexander (stepping up from vice-chairman), by acclamation

Vice Chairman: Molly McKay (2010 nominee for HD 78, patent attorney), by acclamation
1st Congressional

District Committeeman: Don Wyatt over incumbent committeeman and former county chairman Jerry Buchanan, 180-145
1st Congressional

District Committeewoman: Donna Mills over Virginia Chrisco, 233-93

State Committeeman: Don Little over former State Committeeman Chris Medlock and Jeff Applekamp. First round was Medlock 113, Little 108, Applekamp 79; final result was Little 126, Medlock 121.

State Committeewoman: Sally Bell (stepping down as chairman) over Darla Williams, 221-79.

Many of the victorious candidates had the endorsement of Sally Bell. Bell's new job responsibilities wouldn't allow her to devote the time necessary to serving as chairman; state committeewoman involves quarterly meetings of the Republican State Committee in Oklahoma City and occasional meetings of the county party Central Committee and Executive Committee. (For what it's worth, I served as State Committeeman from 2003-2007.)

Krehbiel characterized the convention as a "move further to the right" and a defeat for the "moderate old guard." I don't think that's the case. The "moderate old guard" is pro-life (the pro-abortion Republicans left the local party 20 years ago), pro-2nd amendment rights, and (mostly) pro-limited government, and pro-lower taxes.

The real dispute is the role of the party organization with respect to elected Republican officials. The prevailing faction at the county convention believes that the party should hold Republican elected officials accountable for governing in accordance with the core conservative principles that they espoused when running for office.

The other side -- the "moderate old guard" -- takes the "stand by your man" approach. They don't disagree with the party's conservative core values, but in their view the party organization's job is to advocate for (or at least not to oppose) whatever policies a Republican elected official decides to pursue and should never publicly oppose something a Republican elected official or major Republican donor supports. For example, if the Republican members of the County Commission want to raise local taxes for a downtown arena or river development, the Republican Party shouldn't denounce them for promoting a tax increase, in their view, particularly if major donors support the tax increase too.

The dispute boils down to this: Principle vs. partisanship. Should the party organization back anyone with an R after his name, or should "protect the brand" by insisting that the R actually mean something?

Krehbiel's report mentions a resolution, to be presented at the state convention as an amendment to the state party rules, that would provide a means to censure Republican elected officials who deviate from the party's core principles. Here's the actual wording of the proposed state party rules amendment presented by newly elected Tulsa County GOP chairman J. B. Alexander:

Rule 10

(n) Party Support of Candidates and Elected Officials

In accordance with the framers original intent of the United States Constitution and in accordance with the Constitution of the state of Oklahoma, the core values of the Oklahoma Republican Party shall consist of:

* Life - Life is the result of an act between one man and one woman and begins at conception and concludes at natural death.

* Second Amendment - The right to keep and bear arms is an inalienable right of the individual citizen and government has no authority to regulate such right.

* Limited/Smaller Government - Government is instituted to oversee the general welfare of the citizens. Local, state and federal governments have reached well beyond that which is needed to carry out the basic functions of a constitutional government.

* Lower Taxes - Taxes and mandatory fees have grown to consume approximately fifty percent of an Oklahoma citizen's income. Drastic tax and fee reductions are needed at all levels of government.

Any member of the Oklahoma Republican Party State Committee shall have the right to present evidence of any elected Republican official who consistently works against and/or votes against these core values or publicly supports a candidate of another party.

After such evidence is presented, and a motion and second are made, the state committee shall take a vote of "NO CONFIDENCE" of said elected Republican official. A two-thirds majority vote of members present shall be required for a passing vote.

I might quibble with the selection of issues, the wording, or the proposed penalties (really should be more specific and concrete, I think), but I commend Alexander for focusing on a few key issues, rather than demanding allegiance by officials to every point of the party platform, as past resolutions have done.

Count me on the side of accountability. I've always believed it was an appropriate role for the party organization to play, but especially now that Republicans have supermajorities in the Oklahoma House and Senate and every statewide office, we've got to make sure our elected officials aren't led astray by lobbyists looking for special favors. Some organization needs to apply the pressure to ensure that GOP campaign rhetoric turns into reality.

I was not the least bit surprised at last Friday's announcement that Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin would not use her power to direct the Attorney General to investigate charges against Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. Gov. Fallin is the play-it-safe type. (One indication of that during the general election campaign: The campaign's teleconference with conservative bloggers featured Q&A with two press aides, but not the candidate herself.)


Okla. Gov. Mary Fallin, official portrait, Part 2 of 30

In her response to Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton, Fallin scolded Tulsa leaders about the need to settle their disputes for the sake of economic development, even as she declined to do what is in her power to help them accomplish just that. If this dispute is " an obstacle to attracting new jobs to... the State of Oklahoma," then shouldn't a governor who promised to focus on jobs do what she can to eliminate this obstacle? Eagleton wrote Fallin precisely to ask her to move the problems with Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr toward resolution.

I don't know if Eagleton had this in mind when he wrote his letter to Gov. Fallin outlining Bartlett Jr's actions that warrant an Attorney General investigation, but I know Eagleton is a lifelong Presbyterian, and the idea of appealing disputes to a higher level of authority is deeply rooted in Presbyterianism, which in turn influenced the design of the American judicial system. In the Presbyterian form of government, if there's a dispute between the elders (the lay leadership of the congregation) and the pastor, it can be taken to the next level up -- the presbytery, a body made up of ministers and elders from churches throughout the area.

Taking the Mayor's alleged misdeeds to the Governor and the Attorney General is loosely analogous to appealing to presbytery. Theoretically it puts the dispute in the hands of officials who are somewhat removed from it. (Practically speaking, Bartlett Jr is much better known in statewide Republican circles than Eagleton, and Bartlett Jr was a $5,000 donor to Fallin's 2010 campaign for Governor.)

In her response, Gov. Fallin wrote, "Many, if not all, of your allegations involve violations of the Tulsa City Charter and Ordinances. I have been advised that Title 51 may only address potential state law violations." In fact, 51 O. S. 93 includes in its definition of official misconduct, "Any willful failure or neglect to diligently and faithfully perform any duty enjoined upon such officer by the laws of this state." It could be argued that, as all Oklahoma cities are creatures of the state, with powers defined and circumscribed by the Constitution and statutes of Oklahoma, an officer's failure to perform the duties required by a city's charter and ordinances constitutes a failure to perform the duties enjoined by the state's laws.

MORE: Mike Easterling of Urban Tulsa Weekly spoke to John Eagleton, several of his council colleagues, and GOP state chairman Matt Pinnell about Eagleton's motivations in pursuing the ouster of Bartlett Jr.

Eagleton, a Tulsa native and Oral Roberts University law school graduate, said there shouldn't be any doubt about why he's pursuing this course of action.

"The motivation is derived exclusively from the oath I took when I was sworn in to be a city councilor," he said. "If I had not taken that oath, I would not be doing this now. But I promised to defend the city charter, the city ordinances, the Constitution of Oklahoma, the statutes of Oklahoma, the Constitution of the U.S., the statutes of the U.S. against all comers. That includes elected officials who are not behaving in accordance with their oath of office. It breaks my heart to be on this evolution."...

"As I evolved in thought to reach the conclusions I've reached, it was really quite painful to realize that I was going to be going out on this and realize that there would be a collateral attack," he said. "Mistreating the messenger is always easier than defending the actions of the mayor. And I knew that I would be piƱata-ed someway."...

[Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Matt] Pinnell was careful to indicate he doesn't blame Eagleton for stirring up trouble.

"He's doing what he thinks is right, whether people agree with him or not," Pinnell said. "I respect him for that."...

"I think he's a good man. I don't have an issue with Councilor Eagleton," said District 4 Democrat Maria Barnes, who got to know Eagleton when they were both elected to the council in 2006. She described Eagleton as a very serious person and said she likes the fact that she always knows where she stands with him -- even if it's on the opposite side of an issue, as has often been the case.

[District 2 Republican Councilor Rick] Westcott shares that assessment.

"There's no guile in John Eagleton," he said. "He is what he is. Like him or not, there's no gray area in John Eagleton's personality, and I mean that as a compliment. He is what you see."...

When he first got to know Eagleton, [District 9 Republican Councilor G.T.] Bynum said, he developed the impression that he was bombastic, very certain of his views and fond of using a flamboyant approach to conveying them.

"What's changed over time is I've developed an appreciation for the kind of thought that goes into those beliefs," Bynum said, though he noted that many people who don't know Eagleton well probably view him inaccurately as a shoot-from-the-hip type.

"I'm a great admirer of Winston Churchill, and I can't help but think that serving on a legislative body with Winston Churchill was a lot like serving with John Eagleton," he said....

I've known John Eagleton for close to 10 years, and my impressions of John line up with those of his colleagues. There is no hidden agenda with John Eagleton. He is pursuing ouster -- a complicated process with a low probability of success -- because he feels it is his duty as a city official.

Out sick

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I was composing a couple of entries in my head for this morning, but my head is currently besieged by a howling sinus headache, so the entries were started but not finished. My apologies.

A couple of quick notes:

Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton is slated to be on 1170 KFAQ Monday morning in the 8 o'clock hour to talk about the effort to oust Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the Pat Campbell Show audio page and a direct link to the interview with John Eagleton.

Have you noticed? Not a single city councilor has voiced support for Bartlett Jr. Not a single city councilor has condemned the ouster effort. That's a significant difference between the current controversy and those of the past. Even Nixon had his supporters in Congress, until the "smoking gun" tape emerged, and Nixon had the grace to resign when that support dried up.

Since Thursday's announcement, the only public figure to speak up for Bartlett Jr -- as far as I've heard -- is his attorney -- you know, the one who is working for the mayor for free, the one whose law firm was granted increased limits of $70,000 total on two city contract amendments approved by Bartlett Jr, the one who serves as attorney for the private citizens who have named the city councilors individually in a suit over a ballot initiative.

Hear of anyone else speaking up for Bartlett Jr? Let me know in the comments.

At the Thursday, March 3, 2011, continuation of Tuesday's meeting of the Tulsa City Council's Urban and Economic Development Committee, Councilor John Eagleton made a public call for Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr's removal from office by ouster, a civil process initiated by complaint from registered voters, investigation and prosecution by the state's Attorney General, and concluded with a jury trial. That call was echoed by several of his colleagues, Democrats and Republicans alike, representing the length and breadth of the city.

Eagleton sets forth the case against Dewey Bartlett Jr on his website, a case that he presented during today's committee meeting. Eagleton's presentation constitutes about 23 minutes of the 46 minute video.

Following Eagleton's remarks, Council Chairman Rick Westcott (District 2) points out that there is an undeniable pattern of behavior on the part of Bartlett Jr and that none of the issues enumerated have been resolved. He says that "we need an independent third party... to make some legal determination if the actions do constitute violations of the law," referring to the Attorney General and to the jury that would ultimately hear the case. "Take it out of this arena, take it out of this political environment."

District 6 Councilor Jim Mautino talks about how he pushed to give Bartlett Jr the benefit of the doubt for six months, trying to work with the Mayor to get things done for his district, and how doing so hurt him with his fellow councilors and his constituents as they lost faith in Bartlett Jr. He mentions Bartlett Jr's apparent willingness to appoint an east Tulsa neighborhood leader to the TMAPC, to provide some geographical and neighborhood balance on the planning commission, only to back away, telling Mautino that his proposed commissioner was "toxic." (Mautino did not mention the name of the proposed commissioner, but I'm guessing he was speaking about Al Nichols, a long-time neighborhood leader, very familiar with Tulsa's zoning code and process. Presumably Nichols is too knowledgeable for the taste of someone with powerful influence over Bartlett Jr.)

District 1 Councilor Jack Henderson commended Eagleton for his courage: "John, I know you're going to receive some heat for it, a Republican going after another Republican, but I just want to take my hat off to you for being a man that stood up, is standing up for what's right, trying to make this city a better place." Henderson expressed hope that enough people would "do the right thing" and sign the affidavits so that the investigation by a third party can move forward.

District 3 Councilor Roscoe Turner said, "This is the first time, in all the years I've served on the Council, that there has been this kind of dialogue between a Mayor's Office and a Council. I've never in my life seen a Council that came together 9-0 against a Mayor.... When this Council first came together, the Mayor had a majority of the Council on his side. One by one, I guess he forced them off of his team....." Turner recalled a Council committee meeting at which Bartlett Jr got angry and asserted, "Last time I looked, I was still the boss." Turner said, "Why does anyone want to be the boss? We're here to work together to try to move the city forward."

District 4 Councilor Maria Barnes, wanting to end the meeting on a positive note, said that one of many good things to come out of this is that it has united the Council: "We all have been on the same page, working together."

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On his website, Eagleton has posted the presentation he made to the Council, over a hundred pages of backup material relating to the points of the complaint against the Mayor, and, most importantly, an "Affidavit for Ouster" which can be downloaded. This is a petition, requesting the Attorney General to pursue the charges against the Mayor. Approximately 1100 signatures are required. Each page details the charges and has a place for six signatures of City of Tulsa registered voters. The form can be attested by a notary, the Mayor, any city councilor, the City Clerk, or the City Attorney.

I've mostly avoided delving into the ongoing dispute between Tulsa Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr and the Tulsa City Council. My main reason has been lack of time and energy. It's a valid reason -- my family and the job that pays the bills must come first -- but I'm sorry nevertheless because I feel I've let down BatesLine readers by not covering the issue and my many friends on the City Council by not speaking out in their defense.

When friends have asked about the conflict, I've pointed out that Bartlett Jr has accomplished what no previous mayor has done -- he has managed to alienate all nine members of the City Council. Of course, it's hard to maintain cordial relations with a group of people when you've allegedly recruited citizens to file lawsuits against them as a means of pursuing your political aims. While I won't defend every action by every councilor, I believe that they are more sinned against than sinning in their dispute with Bartlett Jr.

It's all coming to a head with Wednesday's news that Tulsa District 7 Councilor John Eagleton sent a letter to Governor Mary Fallin asking her to request that Attorney General Scott Pruitt investigate a list of charges against Bartlett Jr, with a view to his removal from office.

Eagleton cites 10 charges. To my mind, the most troubling is Bartlett Jr's acceptance of free legal services from Joel Wohlgemuth, whose law firm is also a city contractor. The documentation provided to Gov. Fallin includes two contract amendments with the firm of Norman Wohlgemuth Chandler and Dowdell, one for $25,000 and one for $45,000, both signed by Bartlett Jr.

Nearly as disturbing is the allegation that Bartlett Jr recruited citizens to file lawsuits against the City of Tulsa. From a December 23, 2010, news story:

However, Warren Blakney, the newly elected president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said he was asked to join the suit but declined because he needed to remain neutral even though he agrees with its claims.

Blakney said he met with Goodwin, Bartlett and Simonson. He said he thought they called him in because Bartlett doesn't have good standing with the black community and needed someone in the suit who is respected in that community.

John Eagleton is a friend of mine and has been for many years. He would not take so drastic a step unless he felt there were no alternative. He knows he will be charged with grandstanding and troublemaking. He knows that this step will kill any political future he may have had. He believes that because of Bartlett Jr's ongoing destructive behavior, his removal from the Mayor's office is the only way for our city to move forward.

While I applaud Bartlett Jr's support for the implementation of PLANiTULSA and hope for positive changes from the KPMG report, he has poisoned his relationship with city councilors and city employees who were ready to work with him for the betterment of Tulsa. He has squandered the trust, the political capital a mayor needs in order to implement difficult changes.

Bartlett Jr needs to go.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa City Hall category from March 2011.

Tulsa City Hall: February 2011 is the previous archive.

Tulsa City Hall: April 2011 is the next archive.

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