An edited version of this piece was published in the October 26, 2005, issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. The archived version is no longer online. Posted on the web October 27, 2009.
It's been a tough couple of years for Tulsa's traditional political establishment. The bunch that for years has had control over city government - a group I call the Cockroach Caucus, after their aversion to the light of public scrutiny - saw their grip on public opinion beginning to slip.
Despairing of their long-term chances to regain full control of city government under the current rules, they've got a scheme to change the rules so that money will count for more than grass-roots support. The plan is to dilute geographic diversity on the Council and guarantee that big money will control at least a third of the city's legislative body.
Last Thursday, a group calling themselves "Tulsans for Better Government" filed an initiative petition to reduce the number of Tulsa City Council districts to 6 and to create three at-large "supercouncilor" seats.
The group is headed by Arthur H. "Chip" McElroy II, whose company played host to Bill LaFortune's re-election announcement. The three supercouncilors would be elected citywide to four-year terms, beginning in 2008, while the six district councilors would continue to serve two years at a time.
The idea has been pushed enthusiastically by the Tulsa World editorial board, distraught by their fading influence over city politics. (The World routinely waits three weeks before publishing a letter to the editor, so it's telling that the paper fast-tracked a Sunday "Readers' Forum" guest opinion in support of the campaign just two days after it was launched.)
After the 2004 elections, the Council had, for the first time ever, a majority of members that were elected contrary to the endorsements of the Tulsa World and the money of the developers' lobby. In four contested primaries and four contested general elections, reform-minded candidates received 59% of the vote to 41% for the World's endorsees.*
The empire struck back in May of this year, with Bill Martinson replacing Sam Roop in a special election. But Martinson won with only 29% of the vote, aided by the unusual structure of a special election. The result gave the anti-reform bunch an apparent majority in the short term, but they can't have been encouraged about the long-term prospects of maintaining control.
The results of July 12 had to have been a shock to the Cockroach Caucus. Despite a year-long barrage of criticism from the Tulsa World and now-retired radio host John Erling and a well-financed and relentlessly dirty campaign against Councilors Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock, the two survived a recall election by overwhelming percentages.
What has become apparent is that, in a district race, feet on the ground - enthusiastic volunteers willing to go door-to-door on behalf of a candidate - can beat money and a monopoly daily newspaper. With passionate grass-roots support, a candidate can get a message out to counter direct mail, robo-calls, and the potshots taken on the news and editorial pages of the World. Tulsa's Council districts each have a population of 43,000, still small enough to be reachable by grass-roots methods.
It really seems to frighten the Cockroach Caucus that there are four councilors who don't feel the need to grovel before them for campaign money. In the past, the occasional maverick would rise up and challenge business as usual at City Hall, but the old guard was always successful in isolating them and either defeating them or wearing them down into submission. Councilors Medlock, Mautino, Turner, and Henderson are all men of devout Christian faith. They are willing to risk their political careers to do what they believe is best for the city, and they are confident that in seeking what is right, they will have the support of their constituents. And they've stood by each other through thick and thin, thwarting the old divide-and-conquer strategy.
By making three of the council seats citywide, money comes back into the picture. TV and radio advertising come into play, and for that you need plenty of campaign cash. Grass-roots campaigns can succeed at that level - Tom Coburn and John Sullivan beat elite-supported candidates at the congressional district and state levels - but are much harder to pull off.
Not only would big money have the best shot at winning the three at-large seats, but the process of consolidating nine districts into six would allow the Cockroach Caucus to eliminate the incumbents they hate the most by throwing them into the same districts as other incumbents.
North Tulsa would go from two councilors to one, putting reform Councilors Roscoe Turner and Jack Henderson into the same district. West Tulsa's concerns would be drowned out under the plan - its population currently makes up half of District 2; under the new plan it would only be a third of a district.
Bigger districts are also easier to gerrymander, and with all the support for this effort coming from the Midtown "Money Belt" - that band of affluence stretching from Utica Square to Southern Hills - don't be surprised to see the new lines drawn so that nearly every district includes a Money Belt precinct. That's a time-honored technique used at the state legislative level to allow the affluent to represent working class citizens without having to actually (ick!) live among them. Diversity of representation, the reason we went to districts with the new charter in 1989, would disappear.
Supporters of at-large councilors make the bogus claim that "ward politics" are damaging the city. They say that district councilors are focused on the parochial concerns of their constituents at the expense of the best interests of the city as a whole. But if you look back at the most controversial issues of the last two years, they've been citywide issues. Great Plains Airlines and airport operations, creation of a city-focused economic development policy, oversight for funding to the Chamber of Commerce, fairness in the zoning process, north Tulsa County annexation, the water line to Owasso and the reappointment of two suburbs-focused members of the city's water board, the IVI toll bridge - in each case the councilors under attack by the World-led establishment have been seeking the City of Tulsa's best interests, in many cases where they conflicted with the interests of the suburbs.
Councilors Henderson, Mautino, Medlock, and Turner are each devoted to the needs of their own constituents, but they've also worked together to ensure that the citizens of the historically neglected east, west, and north sections of our city receive the city services they are owed.
And that seems to be what really bugs the bunch behind the at-large council proposal. It's the Money Belt denizens backing this plan that tend to take a parochial view, seeing Tulsa as a small, close-knit, fabulously wealthy town centered on Utica Square. Neighborhoods like West Highlands and Garden City, Rose Dew and Wagon Wheel, Sequoyah and Suburban Acres may as well be foreign countries to them.
We finally have a critical mass of councilors who believe that city government should serve all Tulsans, not just a favored few, and it is shaking up the cozy worldview of the old elite. The forces behind at-large council seats used their years in power to lead Tulsa to its current state of declining population, rising crime, and an economy still dangerously dependent on a few key industries.
The Cockroach Caucus has run this town for years, but it is out of ideas, out of energy, and very nearly out of power. The "Tulsans for Better Government" is the elite's final desperate attempt to keep city government in their grasp.
I feel certain that the people of Tulsa will tell them, "No thanks, the city belongs to all of us now, and we intend to keep it that way."
* NOTE: I've only counted elections where a Whirled endorsee faced a reformist opponent. The Democrat primary in District 3 and Republican primaries in District 7 and 8 decided the winners of those seats. Jack Henderson won a contested Democrat primary in District 1 and handily defeated token opposition in the general election. Districts 2, 4, 5, and 6 had seriously contested general elections. I've left out District 9 entirely - the general election pitted incumbent Republican Susan Neal against incarcerated Independent Paul Tay.
NOTE TO VOTERS: This entry is from 2004. Follow this link for voting information for 2008.
The Tulsa County Election Board has added a number of new and welcome enhancements to the board's website.
You can go here to look at a sample ballot for your precinct. Each ballot will be double-sided. The front will vary based on the which legislative and county commission district a precinct is in. You can look in this cross-reference to see which style will be used in your precinct, then click on that style's link to look at the front of the ballot. The back of the ballot will have the state questions and will be identical county-wide.
Don't know your precinct? Go to the precinct locator, enter your address, and you'll be shown the precinct number, all the applicable district numbers, a picture of the polling place, a link to a MapQuest map of the polling place's location, and a number to call if you run into problems.
You can vote "absentee in person" at the County Election Board HQ at 555 N. Denver, this Friday, 8 am to 6 pm, Saturday 8 am to 1 pm, and Monday 8 am to 6 pm. Here's a link to information about this, and other general election info.
Thanks to Election Board Secretary Gene Pace and his staff for these very helpful additions to the website.
(Now if we could just have past election results online, I'd be thrilled.)
Okie Pundit points out the contradictions he sees in the recent mailer put out by Bill Wortman's campaign for the GOP nomination for the 1st Congressional District. The mailer is designed to look like a newspaper not connected with the campaign:
At the bottom of this story Wortman is qouted as saying, "this shows the institutional dishonesty pervasive in Sullivan's political career". Perhaps true, but odd coming from a candidate trying to make his political ad look like a third party newspaper.
There's more. And to see all of Wortman's mailer in all its glory, visit soonerpolitics.com and look at the top of the "Campaign Chatter" column. Soonerpolitics.com is a fascinating site, owned and operated by OU Political Science professor Keith Gaddie.
At the moment, the headline story on soonerpolitics.com is an analysis of who would likely win the White House in the event of a tie in the electoral college. But then if you're a regular reader of this site, you already know something about that.
Saturday's Whirled article (jump page here) covering the missing Councilors (let's call them the Rebel Alliance, just for fun), quoted extensively from some joker named John Benjamin. Here's part of what he was quoted as saying:
"I blame all of this on Councilor Medlock," Benjamin said. "He needs to examine his motive.
"Everyone in the business community has been calling me wanting to know what's going on. This is embarrassing."
Sullivan is a "little hyper, but he's a good guy. He's fair and objective," said Benjamin, who was Sullivan's campaign manager.
"Chris Medlock has been a dissident ever since he got on the council. He's a troublemaker. He does it in front and behind the scenes. I've told him this," Benjamin said.
"He has to learn to be a team player and how to compromise, or he will never be an effective councilor."
Benjamin said the councilors apparently were making a big deal out of the chairmanship, which "is really just a traffic cop at the council meetings. We purposely didn't put a lot of extra power in that position."
Benjamin said he is surprised at Roop's behavior -- "It's not like him to act this way."
He said it was very irresponsible for the council newcomers to get into a fray when they hadn't even attended one meeting or learned the system.
Who is this guy?
I am almost speechless. Now the Whirled is calling for the County Election Board to find some pretext to avoid certifying the results in the City Council District 3 election. They are trying to goad the District Attorney into prosecuting Roscoe Turner in hopes of getting the seat vacated and getting a new election. Pretty amazing, considering the way the Whirled pooh-poohed the massive irregularities in the original primary -- irregularities which did affect the outcome of the vote.
Overlooked by the Whirled writers -- none of the 11 voters involved in these alleged irregularities had their votes counted. There was no impact on the outcome of the election.
The Whirled is desperately trying to keep the Council in control of the Councilors that they have on a leash. Why is unknown, but they have something they want this Council to do, and if they can even delay Roscoe Turner taking office, they'll have the majority they need to push it through.
Today's editorial is just one more reason to cancel your subscription, as if you didn't already have enough.
Well, well. The Tulsa Whirled is going to rage, rage against the dying of the light, apparently. With Roscoe Turner's victory, their clique no longer has control of the City Council, but they aren't going down without a fight. Thus the story on this morning's front page (jump page here ), screaming about voter irregularities, and whispering threats of felony charges.
(Interesting how the Whirled avoids giving any details on the front page, because the details show how minuscule this story is.)
Two allegations have been made involving eleven people who attempted to cast absentee ballots. One doesn't involve any violation of the law, and the other only became a violation in the last eight months. There is no indication that Roscoe Turner's campaign set out to get the votes of ineligible people counted, and in fact none of these 11 people who tried to vote had their votes counted.
The final results are in, and Roscoe Turner won handily over David Patrick to reclaim his old seat on the Tulsa City Council.
This creates a pro-taxpayer, pro-ordinary-Tulsan majority on the City Council, a coalition that brings together east, north, west, and southwest Tulsa and crosses party and racial boundaries. I don't have the actual vote totals -- I'm in upstate NY and there aren't any numbers available on the web -- but this result will boost our coalition's vote totals to near 60%, a landslide by any measure.
The question is whether these five councilors will be able to stick together and act as a majority, setting the agenda for the next two years, or whether the remnant of the "Class of '02" -- the four remaining Councilors who were recruited to serve the interests of the downtown elites -- will leverage their strong cohesion and be able to wield an effective majority by prying loose one of the other five from issue to issue, keeping the good guys on the defensive.
Mind you, that "Class of '02" is not a monolithic group: Bill Christiansen and Susan Neal have supported homeowners' interests on a number of issues, and Christiansen's initiatives on cost containment and efficiency at City Hall have been positive. They voted against F&M's rezoning at 71st & Harvard, and they did not take campaign money from F&M board members, unlike the other four members of their coalition.
Then you've got the "Gang of Four" -- they took thousands of dollars in campaign funds from F&M Bank board members, and they voted to silence homeowners when that issue came before the Council last fall. Two of the Gang have now been defeated. The remaining two extremists are now in charge of the City Council -- Randy Sullivan as Chairman and Tom Baker as Vice Chairman. As I've written, this shouldn't be, tradition notwithstanding. Randy Sullivan has made it clear he will not be an impartial moderator, and instead he is working to ensure that only his allies become presiding committee chairmen, a violation of the tradition of sharing committee chairmanships among several members. This move will give the "Class of '02" full control over the Council's agenda. Sullivan was given an inch, and he is taking a mile.
The war has been won, but the occupation is going to be a challenge.
Yesterday's new edition of Tulsa Beacon has put into print (link will only last a week) my entries about discrepancies between voters signed in and votes cast in the city primary election and my analysis of the cause of the problems. It's the lead story. Thanks to Charlie Biggs for spotlighting batesline.com and my efforts on this story.
The Beacon now has TV listings and coupon ads, so you have even fewer reasons to keep reading the Whirled. Stop at a local QT and buy a copy.
You have to hand it to our City Attorney's office. They are constantly coming up with clever ways to get the City sued.
Their latest effort involves City Councilor David Patrick, who will only be a City Councilor until 2 p.m. Monday, when the two year term he won in 2002 expires. The City Attorney's office has concocted a case for allowing Patrick to continue to serve and vote as a Councilor until the winner in next Tuesday's special election is certified, even though he was never certified as the victor, and the election was thrown out by the court. This maneuver would allow him to vote in Monday's meeting to select a new chairman and vice chairman -- and his vote could be the deciding one.
If Patrick exercises his alleged voting rights, there will almost certainly be a lawsuit against the city, filed by a constituent of District 3, who would be misrepresented by having him stay in office when he has not been duly elected. A mess would be avoided if Patrick would voluntarily refuse to assume the privileges of office until the election results are conclusive.
There's change in the air down at the Oklahoma State Capitol, with the realization that this may be the year that the voters elect a Republican majority to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The outcome of a handful of races will have momentous consequences -- who will be Speaker, who will chair the committees and thus control what legislation is heard and what is ignored. In turn, the Speaker has power to appoint members of state boards and commissions. In a sense you're casting two votes when you vote for a state legislator -- who will represent you locally, and which party will set the agenda and run Oklahoma. It's reasonable that the majority party, representing the majority sentiment of the voters, should have that kind of power, with due consideration for the rights of legislators in the minority party, who after all represent the same number of constituents as the legislators in the majority.
There's change in the air, too, at Tulsa's City Hall, the result of the ouster of an incumbent in District 6, the near defeat of an incumbent in District 4, and the uncertain result in District 3. Add to that the resounding reelection of a couple of councilors who were labeled by the downtown elite as troublemakers and targeted for defeat. The result is very different from that of two years ago. But that difference may not be reflected in the leadership of the incoming Council.
If the Council follows tradition, two Councilors who were on the losing side of this election will be chosen as Chairman and Vice Chairman next Monday, at a meeting following the new Council's swearing-in. The tradition alternates between parties each year, moves the Vice Chairman up to the Chairmanship and takes the most senior member in a party who hasn't yet been the Chairman as the new Vice Chairman. This year that means District 7 Republican Councilor Randy Sullivan would become Chairman and District 4 Democrat Councilor Tom Baker would become Vice Chairman.
Although the Chairman of the City Council isn't as powerful as, say, Speaker of the House, he presides over the meetings, sets the agenda, and makes appointments to special task forces and committees. For example, the Tulsa City Council was given two places on the Dialog / Visioning leadership team, and then-Chairman Bill Christiansen appointed himself and Susan Neal. A chairman who is philosophically at odds with the majority of the Council would make life miserable for everyone, particularly if he were inclined to use his power to inflict misery on those who disagree with him. At the least, we need our Council leaders to treat every member with fairness and respect, and to be in tune with the concerns of ordinary Tulsans.
So by what measure do I define Sullivan and Baker as both being on the losing side? I'm not talking about the fact that the Republicans increased their majority from five to six. As I've written before, the issues that really matter in Tulsa politics don't line up well with national party divisions. So which side won the 2004 city elections?
In my previous entry, I presented an analysis revealing discrepancies in 50 Tulsa precincts where more votes were counted than there were eligible voters signing in. I offered several explanations for these gaps, but they all boil down to carelessness: A voter was given ballots, but in a moment of distraction she didn't sign the book. An election board clerk overlooked a signature on the precinct register when entering voter IDs into the database. A voter was given a city primary ballot for the wrong party, when the voter's party didn't have a city primary. A voter demanded a ballot he wasn't entitled to, and the precinct workers didn't refuse him. Or, probably the case in three of the precincts, the precinct workers gave a city primary ballot to everyone, regardless of party, even though only one party had a primary.
Anyone could have performed the analysis. The Tulsa Whirled could have, and the Tulsa County Election Board could have and should have. It's like balancing a scorecard at the end of a baseball game -- the left side of the equation should match the right side, and the Election Board has the information to do that kind of comparison.
Imagine if the Election Board had done a self-audit and caught the discrepancy in Precinct 20 right after the election. There would have been no need to take the case to the state Supreme Court. The candidates would not have had to put up money for a recount and would not have had to pay for attorneys. A new primary election could have been held on the same date as the city general, allowing the duly elected Councilor to be sworn in with his colleagues.
So why didn't this happen?
An analysis of records from the February 3rd Tulsa City Council primary election shows that there may have been 50 precincts where more votes were cast in the primary election than the number of voters who are recorded as having signed the precinct register. This is the problem that was uncovered in precinct 20, where nearly 50 more votes were cast in the Democrat city primary than the number of Democrat voters who signed the register. This discrepancy was bigger than the margin of victory in the race, rendering the result mathematically uncertain, and forcing a rerun of the vote, which will take place on April 6th.
In five precincts, the discrepancy was in the double-digits:
WHO SIGNED IN
None of the other Council races were close enough for the discrepancy to affect the outcome.
What could explain these gaps between the number of votes and the number of voters?
A reader passed along a campaign letter he received from City Councilor David Patrick, who faces former Councilor Roscoe Turner in a repeat of the District 3 City Council Democrat primary on April 6. In the letter, Patrick (or someone writing under his name) takes credit for progress he has had little or nothing to do with. (He is careful not to remind voters of his enthusiastic support for the Vision 2025 tax increase.) He then accuses Turner of being a tool of eeeeeeeevil Republicans.
We face a severe challenge in continuing this progress. A close examination of the facts will show that Republican and other outside interests have joined forces with my opponent, in an effort to discredit me through false accusations and misinformation.
This is pretty rich, coming from someone who received more than half his campaign contributions ($13,400, of which $11,000 were given in amounts exceeding $200) from registered Republicans ($7,500). All of Patrick's contributions over $200 from individuals came from people who live outside the district in some of south Tulsa's wealthiest precincts. On top of that, Patrick got significant contributions from two business PACs. (Turner has received the support of organized labor.) And, as we reported, Patrick received $7,300 from officers and board members of the F&M Bank and Trust Company. Patrick was a supporter of F&M's rezoning bid for 71st & Harvard.
Breaking news -- word has reached me that the County Election Board has mailed some unknown number of absentee ballots to registered Republicans for the upcoming rerun of the Democrat City Council District 3 primary. Election Board employees are trying to intercept and recover the mis-sent ballots. It is possible that a judge could order a further delay -- perhaps just a week -- and the printing of new ballots to ensure that these illegitimate ballots won't get counted.
I suspect this is the result of some automated process. Some voters "subscribe" to absentee ballots -- submit a request at the beginning of a year to be sent a ballot for every election that occurs. Still, you would hope that in light of the mess with Republicans voting in Precinct 20 that the County Election Board would be more careful.
More as it develops.
UPDATE: I hear that election officials are saying that 24 mistaken ballots were sent out. If they use the same system for mail-in absentee ballots as they did when I was in college, it should be possible to identify invalid ballots as they are returned to the election board. Back then, I had to place my ballots in an envelope, which then went into another envelope which I signed in the presence of a notary. This notarized envelope would have my name and address on it. If the same system is still used, the election board would be able to set aside ballots from Republican absentee voters -- treating them like provisional ballots. The question is whether they would be legally authorized to do so. And it may be that the absentee voting system is vastly different because of Federal legislation like the 1993 Motor Voter bill.
In case you missed it, the rerun of the District 3 Democrat Primary will occur on Tuesday, April 6. That leaves a bit more than two weeks to make a difference in what will be a close election, an election that has huge implications for the next two years of Tulsa city government.
That's why I was out in Saturday's beautiful weather knocking on doors in support of Roscoe Turner.
One fellow who answered the door said he had been talking up Roscoe to his parents -- he was visiting them that day. He said he was impressed by Turner's dogged persistence about the voting irregularities in the race.
Another lady was more interested in talking national politics. County and city politics, she said, were all about you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours. I couldn't come up with a better description of what we're trying to change at City Hall and the County Courthouse. We are trying to replace the mutual backscratchers with intelligent, independent-minded officials who will seek the best interests of all Tulsans.
More and more of Tulsa's voters are demonstrating that they want honesty, openness, and fairness in government -- they understand that they don't have it now, but they can get it by electing honest and honorable citizens. That's why Chris Medlock and Sam Roop were re-elected by large margins, why Jack Henderson won his primary handily over the Tulsa Whirled's designated candidate, why Randy Sullivan was held to 53% in his re-election bid, why Tom Baker nearly lost to Eric Gomez, why David Patrick had only a three-vote margin (in the invalidated election), and why an entrenched incumbent was turned out of office by neighborhood advocate Jim Mautino.
This election won't change the partisan balance on the Council, in terms of the national political parties -- both candidates are Democrats -- but it will change the partisan balance in terms of local factions and interest groups. A win by Roscoe Turner means a solid majority who will work for fairness to homeowners, city government efficiency, and openness in government.
Roscoe needs volunteers to help knock on doors, make phone calls, drive people to the polls on election day, and to give money to the campaign. You can send checks to the Roscoe H. Turner Campaign Fund, 3415 E Haskell St, Tulsa OK 74115. You can reach him by phone at 834-7580. You can e-mail him at rockyturn at cs dot com. We know from the last election that every vote counts, so do everything you can.
My understanding is that in Judge Gillert's decision to void the election, the question about vacant lots who vote didn't really matter. I am told -- haven't confirmed this yet -- that as long as you register where you are domiciled when you first register, you can legally continue to vote there forever.
The crucial issue in this case was the fact that there were 50 more votes cast in the Democrat City Council primary in Precinct 20 than signed the Democrat registration book. In fact the number of votes cast in the Democrat City Council primary equals the number of votes cast in the Republican presidential primary and the Democrat presidential primary minus one. It is reported that some Republicans realized something was amiss and tried to return the City Council ballot but were told to go ahead and vote.
One theory suggests this was an honest mistake on the part of the precinct officials, who may have been confused over talk that this primary was tantamount to a general election, since no Republican was running. You would hope that precinct officials would understand the meaning of the phrase "closed primary". The Presidential Primary on the same day (for the first time) created an odd situation where everyone (except Independents) could vote in one primary, but only one party could vote in the other. I wonder if this happened in many other precincts -- a similar situation could have arisen in Districts 2, 4, 5, 7, and 8 -- all cases where one party had a primary and the other didn't, and in 7 and 8 the primary was like a general in that the winner of the primary would win the seat.
With over 50 invalid votes and a margin of only three, there is no way to know with certainty which candidate would have won if those invalid votes were removed from the pool. So under the law, the election is void, and a rerun of the election will be held with exactly the same candidates on the ballot.
This just in: District Judge Tom Gillert has voided the Tulsa City Council District 3 Democratic Primary:
GILLERT: THOMAS: HEARING HELD ON PETITION FOR IRREGULARITIES. ROSCOE TURNER PRESENT AND REPRESENTED BY MARK S. DARRAH AND JOHN S. DENNEY. DAVID PATRICK PRESENT AND REPRESENTED BY J. DOUGLAS MANN. TULSA COUNTY ELECTION BOARD REPRESENTED BY DAVID ISKI. COURT REPORTER JANA HARRINGTON. BASED ON PREVIOUS STIPULATION DEFENDANT PATRICK AGREES TO EXISTENCE OF IRREGULARITIES WHICH CAUSED OUTCOME OF PREVIOUS ELECTION TO BE SUBJECT TO MATHEMATICAL UNCERTAINTIES. THE ELECTION IS VOIDED. THE COUNTY ELECTION BOARD IS ORDERED TO SCHEDULE AND HOLD A NEW ELECTION. AS PER ORDER TO BE SUBMITTED BY ATTORNEYS FOR MR. TURNER.
Here's a link to the case report from OSCN.net.
Tulsa's voters sent a message today, and let's hope it was loud enough to echo down the corridors of power. Two incumbent councilors who were marked for defeat by the Tulsa Whirled won resounding victories. One challenger came within one vote per precinct of beating a first-term incumbent who was once discussed as a candidate for Mayor. And another challenger -- underfunded, labeled by the elites as a troublemaker -- mopped the floor with a four-term incumbent. We went three out of four in the closely contested races, and given the prevalence of voter irregularities in Oklahoma, the actual result in the fourth race may not be mathematically certain.
Election day is finally here. Today is our opportunity to take back our city, to elect people to the Tulsa City Council who will represent the best interests of all the people, not just certain powerful special interests. We can elect councilors who will conduct the people's business publicly, not try to hide what they're up to behind closed doors.
It's going to be a beautiful day today, and you have absolutely no excuse not to vote. If you have some extra time, walk to your polling place and get some fresh air and exercise while you're at it. Get a good look at the natural beauty God has blessed our city with. We have an obligation before God to be stewards of that beauty. We can build our city in a way that either complements and enhances that natural beauty or hides it beneath man-made ugliness.
As we saw in the primary, one vote really can make a difference.
Elaine Dodd, chairman of the Tulsa County Democrat Party, sends along an amusing little note:
There are many Tulsans, both Democrat and Republican, who believe that our City Council could be doing a better job representing our neighborhoods and the needs of our residents. However, it is troublesome to me that you only recommend four Republican men to be those change agents. There are Democrat challengers to Republican incumbents (including a woman!) who offer themselves to public service on the City Council and who if elected, would be substantial agents of change and sensitive to the frustrations many citizens have had over the past two years with your four male Republicans being part of business as usual.
I'm amused by your claim that my "four male Republicans" -- the candidates I'm endorsing in the four City Council races which are seriously contested -- have been part of business as usual over the past two years. When you look at the facts, I think you'll agree that if the voters follow my endorsements, they would keep two substantial agents of change on the Council and would replace two obstructionists with real change agents.
The opponents of the four candidates I recommended -- your four Democrats in 2, 4, 5, and 6 -- were all endorsed by the Tulsa Whirled. Do you think the Whirled would endorse anyone who would be an effective agent for change?
At least three of your four Democrats have acknowledged taking campaign money from individuals connected with F&M Bank. Tom Baker and Art Justis received large contributions from those sources. Darla Hall said she received $1,000 from F&M officials after the reporting deadline. (Has Andy Phillips received any money from individuals connected with F&M? Has Darla Hall received any more from those sources?) Do you think these donors would give money to people who will work actively for fair treatment for homeowners?
Today was the fifth opportunity for the Tulsa Whirled to print a story listing contributors to City Council candidates, and the fifth day the Whirled took a pass. I had the information from the pre-general election ethics filing Monday night, and had it up on this site early Tuesday morning.
If you want to see who gave what to the candidates for Tulsa City Council, click here.
In years gone by, the Whirled would publish a summary of campaign finance reports the day after they were due, but for some reason this year they haven't bothered. The point of the deadline (which was Monday) in the ethics law is to give the media time to publicize the list of contributors and to allow voters to consider this information as they go to vote.
The Whirled never published a story on campaign contributions prior to the primary, and it looks like they may not bother publishing one prior to the general election either. After reading the above entries, reading this one might tie it all together for you.
Too tired to write tonight, although I've got a lot on my mind. (I've noticed a pattern recently: certain public officials seem to be confusing the personal with the political, and that's affecting they way they handle issues and elections -- in a bad way. I want to write about that.)
This weekend is the last big push before election day, and if you can spare even an hour, there are several candidates worth your support. I listed phone numbers and websites at the end of a previous entry. Call and offer your help this weekend!
In an earlier entry, I called attention to the large amounts of campaign cash given to certain incumbent councilors by donors affiliated with F&M Bank.
I have in front of me a page from the 2001 annual report listing the Board of Directors and Officers of F&M Bancorporation, which is the sole owner of The F&M Bank & Trust Company. In light of this information, I've revised the F&M-related totals on my analysis of campaign contributions.
Because this is from two years ago, some names will have changed. For example, John Conine joined the board in 2002. I am pursuing up-to-date information and will update this entry accordingly when it comes in.
The information below is exactly as it appears in the report, and in the same order. So as not to crowd the home page, I've put some of the info in the extended entry. A * after a name indicates advisory director. The committees are:
1 Director, F&M Bancorporation
2 Executive Committee
3 Audit Committee
4 Trust Committee
5 Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Committee
Here are the members of the Board as of the date of this report.
Robert E. Lorton, Chairman & Publisher, World Publishing Co.; Chairman, F&M Bancorporation; Chairman, The F&M Bank & Trust Company. Committees: 1, 2
Anthony B. Davis, Vice Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, F&M Bancorporation; Vice Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, The F&M Bank & Trust Company. Committees: 1, 2
Robert R. Gilbert III, President, F&M Bancorporation; President and Chief Operating Officer, The F&M Bank & Trust Company. Committees: 1, 2
Brenda B. Davis, Investments. Committees: 1, 2
Eric L. Davis, Senior Vice President, Commercial Lending, The F&M Bank & Trust Company. Committees: 1, 2
I was one of about 30 people that assembled Monday night at Fellowship Congregational Church to hear 10 of the 12 candidates at a League of Women Voters forum. If you had been there, you would have gained some insights into the candidates, and it grieved me to think that for most voters, their only knowledge of this event would be mediated by the Tulsa Whirled. Tami Marler of KOTV News was the moderator, so I'm surprised that no TV cameras were there. I wonder if the League attempted to get one of the talk radio stations to broadcast this.
I missed the first half of the program, but several people told me I didn't miss a thing -- about as substantive as the Q&A at a beauty pageant. The second half of the program featured questions and answers from the audience -- one set of questions about public safety, another group about zoning and land use. The zoning questions -- about the council's power to confirm planning commission appointments, about campaign contributions from planning commissioners, about strip clubs, and about the protest process -- were very revealing.
Whirled reporter P. J. Lassek probably owes me lunch, because a question I submitted gave her a lead for her story in Tuesday's paper. She did a nice job of selecting verbs and modifiers to make Chris Medlock's mild, careful comments look radical and contentious, which I believe is required by the Whirled's stylebook.
I asked the candidates a two-part question: Of the current members of the TMAPC, whose reappointment would you support and whose would you oppose? And have you received any financial contributions from members of the TMAPC?
I've updated the full list of City Council candidates, their major contributors, and their total spending and fundraising. Click here to see the raw details, and you can scroll through nearby entries for analysis.
So I'm in Midtown running some errands, and I decide to stop by the City Clerk's office to pick up the handful of C-1 ethics filings that weren't filed on time before the City Council primary. It takes a while, because nearly everyone in the office is sick -- they're down to one employee in the main office and a temp in the ground floor office. The ground floor office tells me they can help me up on the 9th floor, and just as we're going through the primary filings looking for the ones I want, in walks Randy Sullivan, papers in hand. "How's it goin'?", I ask. He looks a bit like a deer caught in the headlights. As he turns in his papers, I say, "I'll bet that's the one we're missing." I can see the gear (singular) turning in his mind, he settles on a sarcastic response. "This'll give you and Michael DelGiorno something to talk about. You be sure and make a big deal about this tomorrow morning. You be sure Michael makes a big deal out of this." I assure him that we will, if it's got something newsworthy in it.
And it does: Like several of his colleagues, Randy Sullivan appears to have been well-rewarded for carrying the water for F&M Bank in their controversial rezoning case at 71st & Harvard. You can see the details on the entry with each candidate's contributors and totals, which I've updated with his report and the late primary reports filed by Todd Huston and Tom Baker.
Sullivan received $7,250 in contributions, more than half of everything he raised and spent, from board members and officers of F&M Bank and Trust: Jay Helm, Anthony Davis, Eric Davis, John Conine, and Rob Gilbert. Another $1,500 comes from developers' PACs. And he was clever enough to delay all of his gifts and expenditures until after the deadline for the pre-primary ethics filing, so that none of this would be known to the voters before they went to the polls on February 3rd.
Sullivan received the biggest chunk of donations from people connected with F&M Bank, topping David Patrick at $7,000, Tom Baker at $1,000, Art Justis at $2,500. Since Justis and Baker had a general election race, I suspect they are getting the bulk of their chunks after the deadline for ethics reporting for the general.
And Joe Westervelt, the chairman of the planning commission (TMAPC) gave Sullivan $300. Justis, Patrick, and Baker each got $500 from Westervelt, Christiansen got $300. I'm thinking that the amount had to do with how vulnerable to defeat Westervelt perceived each of them to be.
More thoughts on campaign contributions and how they influence councilors later, but here's one to start with: Raising money for a city council campaign is hard and unpleasant work, and you're grateful for everything you get, but especially grateful for big checks that reduce the amount of time you have to spend on fundraising. You're naturally going to want to do everything you can for those who help you out, especially if they provide half your campaign funds in one bundle of contributions.
District 2 candidates Chris Medlock and Darla Hall will be on KFAQ 1170 with Michael DelGiorno this morning -- Medlock at 7:10 and Hall at 8:10.
Tentatively, KFAQ plans to have the District 4 candidates on Thursday, District 5 on Friday, and District 6 on Monday, head-to-head, in the 7 o'clock hour. (Hall said she had a scheduling conflict, so she couldn't be present for a head-to-head discussion this morning.)
Tell all your friends to tune in and hear these candidates before they make their choice.
All the names and numbers from the campaign finance reports are in the previous entry.
UPDATE: I had asked about the identity of John Conine, a major donor to several candidates. A reader sends along a news clip about John Conine from the July 14, 2002, edition of the Tulsa Whirled, page E2:
F&M Bank & Trust Co. has announced the appointment of John Conine to its board of directors. Conine is president of JFC Management and JFC Automotive Rental Group.
So the F&M-related numbers below have been adjusted appropriately.
Some observations and analysis:
Names connected with F&M Bank pop up for certain incumbents: Tom Baker got $1,000 combined from Eric Davis and John Conine. Art Justis got $2,500 combined from Eric Davis, Anthony Davis, and Conine. And David Patrick hit the jackpot: a combined $7,300 from Jay Helm, Eric Davis, Anthony Davis, John Conine, and Frank Murphy III: all board members of F&M Bancorporation, the holding company for The F&M Bank & Trust Company. (Robert E. Lorton, Chairman and Publisher of the World Publishing Co. -- which publishes the Tulsa Whirled -- is also Chairman of F&M Bancorporation and the F&M Bank & Trust Company.) The connection between these donations is underlined by the fact that they were all received on the same day, January 27, according to the financial reports for Patrick and Justis. (Baker's report fails to list "Date Accepted" for his contributions.)
UPDATE: F&M Bancorporation board members were even more generous to Randy Sullivan, giving him $7,550, more than half of his campaign funds.
Joe Westervelt, a developer and the contentious chairman of the TMAPC, who rudely dismissed the property owners who appeared at last Wednesday's hearing on the zoning protest process, spread some money around. Who are his favorite councilors? He gave $500 to David Patrick, $500 to Tom Baker, and $500 to Art Justis. Interesting: He contributed to three of the four councilors who voted to cut off the homeowners who tried to present their case to the Council last October 30, so he leans toward councilors who like to deny homeowners a fair hearing. He likes Bill Christiansen, too, but not as much, I guess because he only gave Bill $300. (UPDATE: Westervelt also gave Randy Sullivan $300.)
And who are the Radleys? Two Radley couples gave money to Tom Baker, listing Claremore addresses, and Steve Radley (same name as a Baker donor) gave money to Justis, but lists an address of 12217 E Admiral Place, which I believe is the location of a mobile home sales business. Justis also received money the same day from Serenity Homes, right next door at 12221 E Admiral Place, and the Oklahoma Manufactured Housing PAC. Jerald Summers also gave $500 to Justis that day -- is there a connection? And why are people with an interest in mobile homes giving to City Council candidates?
If you've got answers, e-mail me at blog at batesline dot com.
It's striking how many candidates lent themselves money. I count myself blessed and grateful that in my 2002 campaign my friends, family, fellow MIT alumni, and fellow neighborhood activists provided me with about $17,000, and I didn't have to borrow any money. To be sure, I had to forego some pay, and I had personal expenses that I wouldn't have ordinarily incurred (meals out, especially), but my family didn't bear the financial burden of the campaign.
You are reading it here first, thanks to an intrepid volunteer researcher who gathered the information from the City Clerk's office today. Here is a summary of contributions given to the City Council candidates. The reports were due today. In the summary you will see the list of people who have contributed more than $200 dollars in the course of the campaign, followed by cumulative contributions and expenditures. The numbers below cover the entire campaign, including the pre-primary ethics filing and the pre-general filing. Some candidates have had no large contributions at all. For the individual contributions, I list the amounts followed by the names of contributors who have given those amounts. Details are below; analysis will be in a later entry.
UPDATE: Lists of contributors reformatted for ease of reading.
The League of Women Voters is sponsoring a candidate forum for the Tulsa City Council general election, tonight from 5:30 to 7:00 at Fellowship Congregational Church, 2900 S. Harvard Ave. This will be a great opportunity to hear all of the candidates speak about the issues.
If Tulsans want to take back our city, one of the most important opportunities is in District 6. East Tulsans have the chance to get rid of an arrogant incumbent who is a tool of the city establishment and bring in a man who will represent their best interests at City Hall.
Jim Mautino, the Republican nominee, is by far the best choice for the District 6 seat. Jim has been a tireless advocate for his part of town, working on zoning and planning issues to protect property values and the quality of life. Jim has persisted and more often than not prevailed because he knows the rules and does his homework, and he won't give up without a fight.
Jim retired a couple of years ago after nearly 40 years with American Airlines, and he's lived all that time and more at his house in Tower Heights neighborhood, with his wife of 50 years, Bonnie.
Fellow Tulsans, in just eight days we have the opportunity to determine whether our city government will be run for the benefit of just a few favored interests, or for the benefit of all of Tulsa's citizens. There are four key council races (two others will be landslides for the dominant party in those districts). Who wins these races will determine the direction of the city for the next two years. If we have five councilors willing to stand up for ordinary Tulsans, five councilors willing to hold city bureaucrats accountable, five councilors willing to stand up for what's right, even when the Whirled and the Chamber Pots and the developers' lobby threatens and abuses them, our city will be able to move forward.
What if we stay home a week from Tuesday? What if we decide we can't make a difference? If the good guys lose and the bad guys win, especially by a large margin, it will embolden the bad guys to abuse the system for their own benefit.
A couple of incidents at last Thursday's Council meeting illustrate why we need change:
The Council was supposed to deal with an important zoning issue in east Tulsa -- the final plat for a zoning change involving the concrete plant on 11th Street east of 129th East Avenue. This concrete plant had, under previous ownership, illegally expanded operations into a residentially zoned area, and they sought a zoning change to bring their operations into compliance. This case strikes at the concern that many east Tulsans have: Will the green, semi-rural atmosphere that attracted them to east Tulsa be replaced by heavy industrial development? And will new development be required to obey the law, or will the rest of the city treat east Tulsa as a dumping ground?
Jim Mautino, a 40-year resident of the area and a long-time neighborhood leader, has been following this issue closely for years, and it was thanks to his efforts that the batch plant was pressured into bringing its operations into compliance. Every Thursday, for the last seven weeks, Jim Mautino has seen the item on the agenda, and has come down to the Council meeting to address the Council on this issue. And every Thursday, the item is pulled at the last minute at the urging of Councilor Art Justis, who doesn't want the issue to come up before the city elections. Did I mention that Jim Mautino is the Republican nominee for District 6? I'm told that Justis thinks it's hilarious, how he can manipulate the system to inconvenience Jim Mautino and delay a decision until after the voters make their choice. That kind of contempt cannot be allowed to go unanswered.
Here's another thing from last Thursday night. Several of us attended to urge the Council to adopt a "consensus" that they support retention and strengthening of the zoning protest process. Homeowners were promised that this issue would be addressed before the Council primary. The Council directed the TMAPC to make a recommendation on the issue by January 20, and to produce as soon as possible a document explaining the current process, so that it would be well-defined for the next group of property owners to encounter this issue. In both cases the TMAPC has been sitting on its hands. I told you what happened on Wednesday when Chairman Joe Westervelt, the angry face of the development industry in our city, abruptly dropped the item from the agenda, then turned his back on the citizens who had gathered to express their views.
To their great credit, Councilors Bill Christiansen and Chris Medlock are holding the TMAPC's feet to the fire on this issue. They put the item on the agenda, to keep it in front of the Council and to keep the heat on INCOG to do the job they promised to do. The pressure did get INCOG to produce a draft of the protest petition process document, after months of inaction.
So how did their fellow councilors respond? Tom Baker, retired bureaucrat, scolded his colleagues for criticizing and questioning the motives of public employees in a public forum. (I didn't hear anyone question motives; that's his spin.) He said that it sets a bad example, and the public might treat public employees badly if they see their Councilors asking tough questions. So Tom Baker isn't bothered when public employees and commission members mistreat the taxpayers. He doesn't care a bit about accountability. He needs to be removed by the voters next Tuesday. Randy Sullivan, who, alas, was reelected in the primary, joined Baker in denouncing any tough questions directed at the actions of the bureaucrats or the planning commission members. Baker and Sullivan aren't watchdogs; they're lapdogs.
If we want responsive, representative government, we're going to have to act next Tuesday. Better yet, start early, and volunteer this final week to help one of the good guys with time, money, or both. Here's the contact info for the candidates who need and deserve your help:
Chris Medlock, District 2, http://www.chrismedlock.com, or call him at 496-3997.
Eric Gomez, District 4, http://www.eric4tulsa.com, or call him at 378-0992.
Sam Roop, District 5 (no website, but call him at 665-1869).
Jim Mautino, District 6, http://www.jamesmautino.com, or call him at 437-2642.
We need these men on the City Council. They will work for us. Let's take back our city on March 9th!
Saturday was the 2004 Tulsa County Convention. It was a showcase for elected officials and candidates, with speeches from all three Republicans who are running to succeed Don Nickles in the U.S. Senate -- former OKC mayor Kirk Humphreys, Linda Murphy, and Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony.
The only real order of business was adoption of this year's platform, which had been unanimously recommended to the Convention by the Platform Committee. The platform was adopted unanimously, without even a hint of disagreement, which has never before happened in my memory. Here are some highlights from the local government section:
3. We oppose spending Vision 2025 tax dollars on projects other than the 32 approved by the voters. We urge the County Commission to end the tax before overage dollars have been collected.
A while back I said I'd write something about this. The folks at the Tulsa Whirled have developed a skill of seeming to do actual news reporting, when in fact they're taking the easy way out. This is especially true when it comes to campaigns.
Today's Whirled articles about the District 4, District 2, and District 5 contests illustrate the point. Because I know several of the City Council candidates, I know that the candidates for the general election each received a questionnaire. The questions were, roughly, (1) what projects would you favor including on the next general obligation bond issue; (2) would you support a special sales tax earmarked for public safety; (3) would you support a special sales tax to fund public transit (the bus system); (4) what are your priorities.
So the candidates filled out their questionnaires. Whirled reporter Brian Barber then took the replies and rearranged the quotes, using some direct quotes and some paraphrasing, to make it look like he actually interviewed the candidates. All this without actually ever meeting the candidates face to face or even speaking to them by phone.
The Whirled did exactly the same thing, but with a different set of questions, during the primaries. The initial questionnaire also included a personal history, on which a candidate had to disclose any felonies, restraining orders, divorces, etc. The Whirled's questionnaire appears to come verbatim (without credit) from this website.
Rather than disclosing all the information provided by all the candidates, the Whirled chose to follow up and report information that would embarrass the candidates the editorial board opposes, and leave unreported anything embarrassing about the candidates the editorial board supports. For example, the Whirled didn't tell you about Randy Sullivan's pending divorce or that Tom Baker is on at least his third marriage (here's the marriage license for the marriage before his current one, in 1991). None of us are without sin or past mistakes, but it's clear that the Whirled didn't want its readers to know that its pet candidates had these kinds of problems, as it might be the factor to push a voter to the other side.
If the Whirled were going to actively pursue reporting on the campaign, they might interview the candidates themselves. They might attend candidate forums and campaign events. They might ask a candidate's supporters to say why they support one candidate and oppose the other. But this would require some actual effort.
But, dear Whirled reporters, if you're determined to take the easy way out, go all the way and print the responses you receive from the candidates as is. Don't go to the trouble of slanting them and making them look like a news story. Your readers will be better served if they read the candidates' own words. And you'll have that much more time to play solitaire on your computer!
MORE: One other thing that stinks about these articles -- it makes it appear that the candidates chose these issues to address, when they are answering the only questions the Whirled is allowing them to answer.
What a disappointing result -- barely 1,000 voters turned out for today's Tulsa school board election, and 12-year incumbent Cathy "asleep at the wheel" Newsome was re-elected with 64% of the vote. Her opponents split the rest of the vote. There will be no runoff, since Newsome got more than 50% of the vote. She wins a four-year term, which is far too long. Like every other aspect of Oklahoma school board elections, the length of the term seems designed to reduce the accountability of school boards and administrations to taxpayers and parents.
There wasn't much campaigning. In a normal political race, a candidate knock on doors, make phone calls, mail flyers put out signs, and do his best to connect at least once with every likely voter in the district. In this election, I didn't see any such effort, except for a last minute blanket of right-of-way signs for Claudia Brown-King and one handmade sign for Betty Morrow. The turnout was so low that a concentrated voter contact effort might have been enough to beat the incumbent. Someone with a back-to-basics message -- a real alternative to the current approach to schooling -- and an organized political effort could have won and won big.
I showed up at my polling place -- the rear entrance of 29th & Yale Church of Christ -- at 8:30 and was the second voter (one of the precinct workers voted before me). My wife voted an hour later and was voter number 4. When I drove by, I didn't see the "VOTE HERE" sign by the road. I wasn't sure that our precinct was in District 5 -- it was in District 6 before the lines were redrawn after the 2000 census -- but based on Betty Morrow's description of boundaries, we should be voting. Sure enough, when I drove around to the back of the building, the VOTE HERE window sign. Evidently the sign by the street had fallen over or had been knocked over.
I just got a nice note from Betty Morrow, one of the candidates for the District 5 seat on the Tulsa school board. Here is her description of the boundaries for that election:
Michael, the parameters are basically, 11th to 51st and the river to Yale, with these exceptions: the area from 11th to 21st on Utica to the river You have to be East of Utica in this area . Also not in District 5 is the square mile Harvard to Yale and 41st to 51st. There are a few blocks next to the river which are South of 51st.
So it looks like I get to vote tomorrow. And I plan to vote for Betty Morrow.
In the midst of the municipal races, don't forget about Tuesday's school board election. There are several races in Tulsa County, including one in the Tulsa district between a 12-year incumbent, Cathy Newsome, and two challengers, Betty Morrow and Claudia Brown King, who like Newsome are former teachers. King has taught at both private and public schools.
Newsome has been endorsed by the Whirled for another four year term. She's been in long enough anyway, but the reason for the Whirled's endorsement made it clear that we don't need her back on the board:
Newsome is not only a lifetime educator, she is one of the reasons that the current school board is a cooperative one that avoids useless wrangling in favor of thoughtful action.
This is the same sort of language the Whirled uses to praise their chosen puppets on the City Council. Translated from Whirled-speak into real English: "Newsome doesn't demand accountability from the administration and blithely goes along with the latest educratic fads. She doesn't represent the interests of taxpayers and parents. God forbid students should get a real education -- they might see right through the malarkey we publish and our circulation numbers will drop even faster."
Here's a quote from Newsome from
Wednesday's candidate forum that supports the point:
"Just because a person has been in office a long time doesn't mean they're ineffective. Just because board members aren't lashing out at each other and are supportive of the superintendent's initiatives does not mean they're sitting there asleep at the wheel," she said.
Well, yes, ma'am, it does. If you sat there and supported the idiotic Tulsa Model for School Improvement, which features French classes in which French is not taught, you were asleep at the wheel, and you are more committed to promoting the latest theoretical fads rather than time-tested approaches to imparting knowledge to children.
According to the article, Newsome took a shot at her opponents for sending their kids to private school. Claudia King explained that her children's father (and her ex-husband) Charlie Brown was the athletic director at Holland Hall (as well as an excellent chemistry teacher, in my opinion) -- that's why her kids went to school there. A better answer would have been, "Of course I put my kids in private school. Anyone with sense who could afford it would! Tulsa public schools stink! That's why I'm running for school board -- to make the public schools as good as the private school my children attended."
If Sunday's Whirled story is to be trusted (which is not something I take for granted) all three candidates oppose charter schools, which is a shame. Charter schools hold great promise for making traditional approaches to instruction and classroom discipline available to parents who want that kind of learning environment for their children.
The shocking thing is how few people care about this election. Tulsa is the largest district in the state, with an enrollment exceeding 40,000 pupils. We are about to elect someone to the board of an entity that spends a quarter of a billion dollars a year (general fund only -- not counting capital spending).
That's over $6,000 per child per year. (See this report for a comparison of all the school districts in Oklahoma.) Only 52% of that goes to the classroom. That is about a thousand more per pupil than all of the suburban Tulsa County districts and a lower percentage spent in the classroom than the surrounding districts.
I wish I could give you the exact boundaries of the election district that votes on Tuesday, but that information doesn't appear to be on the web. Generally, the seat represents the most of midtown Tulsa. I suggest you swing by your normal polling place on Tuesday and see if your precinct is open, just to be sure.
Who to vote for? Anyone but Newsome. If Newsome can be held below 50% of the vote, there will be a runoff the first Tuesday in April, which would allow a longer campaign and more time to get the important issues out in the open. I would probably vote for Betty Morrow just for not having spent her whole adult life as a part of the public education industry.
One of the few contested school board seats in the entire metro area is the Tulsa Public Schools District 5 seat. This is an important election, because we have a public school system that seems to be captive to every educational fad. Tulsa Schools now feature French classes that don't involve actually teaching French! If I could go (and I can't) I'd ask if the candidates support the "Tulsa Model for School Improvement" and I'd vote for whichever candidate had the guts to say it's all a pile of hooey.
Another thing to look for: Is the incumbent defending all of the administration's decisions, or is she willing to be critical of how the school system is being run? If a board member thinks her job is to be the ambassador for the school system, she needs to be retired.
Support for charter schools is another important issue. If they're determined to screw up the mainstream public schools, independent charter schools will provide a way for parents to choose a real education for their children without having to shell out for tuition.
Here's the official announcement of the forum from the League of Women Voters:
On 2/24, there will be an election for Tulsa Public Schools board members. The only contested seat is District 5. Very broadly it is bounded by 11th and 51st Streets and the Arkansas River and Yale and consists of Edison High School, its feeder schools and Eisenhower International School. Another way of describing the district is that it serves Zip Codes 74104, 74105, 74112, 74114 and 74135.
The incumbent is Cathy Newsome who is seeking reelection. The other candidates are Betty Morrow and Claudia King.
The League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Tulsa (LWVMT) and the Tulsa Council PTA ("Council") are collaborating to inform the public regarding the candidates and the issues.
The Council and the League have scheduled a candidate Forum to be held at Edison High School at 530 p.m. on Wednesday, 2/18/04. All three candidates have agreed to participate in this forum which will be moderated by Clayton Vaughn.
All citizens who are interested in the future of the Tulsa Public Schools are cordially invited to attend this forum. This invitation is definitely extended to students and interested citizens who live in districts other than 5.
The Council and the League are hoping for a large turnout for this election. Registered voters who might not be able to get to their Polling Site on 2/24 may obtain an absentee ballot calling the Tulsa County Election Board (596-5780).
Questions regarding this forum may be directed to Roberta Clark, 582-5853, or Herb Beattie, 742-2003.
PLEASE FORWARD THIS MESSAGE TO ANYONE YOU THINK MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN THIS IMPORTANT ELECTION. THANK YOU.
The recount of the District 3 Council race will occur this Thursday, at 9:30 a.m., at the Tulsa County Courthouse, in the courtroom of Judge Tom Gillert. As I mentioned previously, Roscoe Turner needs your help. He would like as many supporters as possible to be present for the hearing and the recount. He especially needs people who can be present throughout the recount. If you want a Council that will work for fairness and accountability, you want Roscoe back on the Council, and we need to make sure that he isn't cheated out of a victory by improper votes being cast. Please find a way to help, and contact Roscoe to offer your assistance: You can send checks to Roscoe Turner, 3415 E Haskell St, Tulsa OK 74115. You can reach him by phone at 834-7580. You can e-mail him at rockyturn at cs dot com.
On Tuesday, former Councilor Roscoe Turner filed for a recount in his very close contest in Council District 3. He has also filed a contest of the election, alleging that sufficient irregularities exist to cast the actual result of the election in doubt.
One example of an irregularity: Someone signed in as "Wanda Kinkade" at the polls for recinct 16. Wanda's place of residence is listed as 124 N. Zunis Ave., which is a vacant lot. It might really have been Wanda who signed in, but obviously she doesn't live where she told the election board she lives. Or someone has been voting in her name. She (or whoever is using her name) is a pretty consistent voter, according to election board records, and voted in the Vision 2025 election, the Right-to-Work, the 3rd penny sales tax renewal in 2001, state and federal elections in 2000 and 2002.
Michael DelGiorno and Gwen Freeman of KFAQ spent Tuesday afternoon trying to track down Ms. Kinkade. The election board record for Kinkade showed a different mailing address than her place of residence; Michael and Gwen discovered that this mailing address was a dilapidated shed behind a house, in which no one had ever lived, as far as the longtime residents of the house were aware. Wednesday morning they did the first two hours of their show from the vacant lot on North Zunis Avenue. They interviewed Roscoe, and KJRH came out to do a live shot for their morning news program. It was a great way to dramatize how insecure our voting system is. As Michael put it, how do we know that Brad Henry really won the governor's race? Henry won by about three votes per precinct, and there are bound to have been that many invalid votes cast.
The recount may modify the margin of victory. If it turns out that there are more irregular votes than the margin of victory, the outcome is mathematically uncertain and the election is thrown out and a new one held.
The recount may be on Thursday the 19th. Roscoe has said he needs some of his supporters to be available to participate and help watch the recount. He may also need volunteers to help with research and leg work to follow up reports of irregularities. I gave him a small contribution to help with the expenses of pursuing the recount -- he's already had to spend nearly $1,000 on deposits and court fees -- you should consider helping him, too.
During his time on the Council, Roscoe Turner worked to hold our government accountable to the citizens and taxpayers. He worked for zoning reforms to help homeowners defend their property values. We need him back on the Council, and he needs our help. You can send checks to Roscoe Turner, 3415 E Haskell St, Tulsa OK 74115. You can reach him by phone at 834-7580. You can e-mail him at rockyturn at cs dot com.
My letter to the editor -- 196 words, so they should print the whole thing, but will they?
(Please excuse the spelling, but for this letter I deferred to the way the Whirled spells its own name.)
I was saddened but not surprised by the editorial labeling Councilor Chris Medlock as a "weak link". Medlock is in fact the strongest link on the City Council. He is one of a handful of councilors who will study the issues, ask intelligent questions, and apply independent judgment to make the right decision for our city. He is a champion for the interests of ordinary Tulsans. That is why the Tulsa World wants him out of office.
The Tulsa World uses its pages to advance the interests of its publisher and his associates, without regard for the interests of Tulsans of all races, classes, and neighborhoods. The World's ideal Council consists of nine lobotomized monkeys, who would follow directions without thinking. The World editors skew coverage to make the councilors they control look good and to make intelligent, independent public servants look bad.
Because Chris Medlock insists on fair treatment for Tulsa’s homeowners and taxpayers, World editors have falsely labeled him as a troublemaker. Those who know Chris Medlock appreciate his energy and sense of humor, his devotion to his wife and their foster children, and his love for Tulsa, his hometown. Tulsa needs him on the Council.
There's only so much you can say in under 200 words, so read on for more:
Have been traveling and unable to post, but sometime in the next couple of days will post a reaction to the primaries. I'm disappointed, but I have a strong suspicion that Roscoe Turner won his election, and I hope he will pursue a recount and validation of the votes aggressively. There were machine problems Tuesday night at the election board. In third-world countries, machine problems happen conveniently to allow the vote totals to be fiddled.
The City of Tulsa website has a little web application -- you put in your address and it tells you your Council district and current councilor.
By the way, the maps in my entries on the Council race are scanned from the official map from the election board. (They sell copies of district maps, but they don't have them on the website yet.) The numbers are precinct numbers.
(I'm postdating this so it stays at the top of the blog through election day.)
Convincing people to care about a City Council primary election is a tough sell. Folks don't perceive local issues as important, and they're bombarded with national and world news. This year's primary is overshadowed by a presidential primary. Even granting the importance of local government, a lot of folks figure they'll let the hardcore voters separate the wheat from the chaff in the primaries, and they'll get interested when the general election comes around. It's a partisan primary, so Republicans assume that an election which will be decided in the Republican primary must be a win-win scenario -- no danger of a Democrat getting in -- so they can sit this one out.
That would be a huge mistake. You need to show up and vote today. Here's why:
Here are links to my endorsements and other articles pertaining to the Tulsa City Council primary tomorrow:
District 1 Republican Primary:
District 1 Democrat Primary:
District 2 Republican Primary:
District 3 Democrat Primary:
District 4 Republican Primary:
District 5 Republican Primary:
District 7 Republican Primary:
District 8 Republican Primary:
Follow this link for a very small PDF file, a handy diagram depicting the City Council elections as a tournament bracket. Some players have a bye (no primary) the first round; in other contests the first round is the only round. On the sheet I've highlighted the candidates I've endorsed in bold and the candidates that the Tulsa Whirled has endorsed in italics. A little (i) in parentheses indicates the incumbent in each election. (Note that the Whirled hasn't formally endorsed Baker, Justis, or Neal, none of whom have a primary, but based on the Whirled's praise for these councilors in the editorial and news pages, the paper is certain to endorse them in the general.)
Scroll back through previous entries for commentaries on each of the eight Council races on the ballot tomorrow.
Devon Jones, the Republican nominee for City Council District 1 in 2002, is once again seeking that office. Jones is an American Airlines maintenance technician with a heart for public service.
Devon Jones is the best choice in the Republican primary.
In the 2002 election, despite a heavy registration and name ID advantage for incumbent Joe Williams, Devon Jones won the precincts west of downtown Tulsa along the Sand Springs Line. He is active in local Republican politics and has received the endorsement of the Oklahoma Minority Republican Coalition.
As a Republican in a heavily Democrat district, as a white man in a majority African-American district, Devon Jones would seem to be facing long odds. But he is active in working with neighborhoods and community organizations across District 1, building friendships and respect across partisan and racial lines. Republicans will be proud to have Devon Jones as their standard-bearer in District 1.
This is what I know about the three candidates running in the District 1 Democrat primary to succeed Joe Williams:
I know nothing at all about Shirley LeRoy.
I know that Joda Trimiar received the endorsement of the Tulsa Whirled. While the Whirled sometimes endorses good candidates in federal and state elections, their local endorsements are usually all about electing easily-controlled sheeple who will carry out the Whirled's hidden agenda. The Whirled describes Trimiar as "bright and thoughtful". Are the Whirled's editorial writers being sincere in Trimiar's case, or are they playing the same game as when they describe Randy Sullivan as having "keen intelligence" and a "pleasant demeanor"? Sorry, Ms. Trimiar, but in the absence of mitigating information, a Whirled endorsement is a disqualifier.
Here's what I know about Jack Henderson. When countless civic leaders were lining up behind a regressive sales tax to build entertainment facilities, Jack Henderson was a leader in the fight to stop the tax hike. He was a co-chairman of the opposition efforts against the Tulsa Project in 1997, against "It's Tulsa's Time" in 2000, and against Vision 2025 last year. That's how I came to know Jack.
I'm sure that Jack Henderson and I disagree on many state and national issues, and probably some local issues as well. But Jack has been willing to buck the establishment, and we need that kind of independence on the City Council.
Councilor Randy Sullivan may be under a tub, under a blanket, or under a barrel, but whatever the case, it isn't pertinent. (MP3, approx 600 KB.)
(A bit of bizarreness from the notorious October 30, 2003, Council meeting in which Councilor Randy Sullivan (absolutely no relation to Congressman John Sullivan) led the effort to deprive homeowners of their rights to present a valid petition and expect the laws to be followed as written. The Whirled assures us that this man is intelligent.)
District 4 Councilor Tom Baker, former Tulsa Fire Chief, is a bureaucrat to the core, and at the TulsaNow forum he was employing the skills that enabled him to climb to the top of a city bureaucracy and hang on for over a decade. He has that knack for speaking at length without telling you what he is thinking, or indeed if he is thinking at all. Asked if Tulsa's current process needed to be revised, he said he wasn't there to condemn the current process, but didn't explain what was good or bad about it. To several questions, he replied that "there is room for improvement" while carefully avoiding telling us what he thought might need improving.
Another key bureaucratic skill is the ability to make decisions in a way that avoids accountability for the results. A proven technique for achieving this is to develop a process involving quantifying the intangible and unquantifyable, then putting the numbers through complex formulas, and hallowing the result as Vox Dei. This technique dates back at least as far as Aaron at the base of Mt. Sinai: "While I may or may not personally have chosen a golden calf as an object of worship, it emerged from our board-certified, ISO-9000 compliant process of evaluating this nomadic community's quality of life, to which all stakeholders previously agreed, and so we must all accept the result."
Below are a couple of more endorsements for next Tuesday's primary elections. There will be eight city council races on the ballot, three of which will decide the election because no one of the other party filed.
A disclaimer: I am involved in a lot of different civic activities around town and I wear a lot of different hats, but in making these endorsements (as with everything else on this blog), I am speaking only for myself.
Someone wrote in asking about some of the other races, like the District 6 race. District 6 and District 9 are the only two races which have no primary at all, and District 9 isn't really a contest at all. I'll talk about them and the other four general election contests at length closer to the general election, but for now, I'll say that Jim Mautino, the Republican in the District 6 race, will be a great Councilor, he has an excellent chance of winning, and he could use your support. Call him at 437-2642 if you'd like to help.
This almost goes without saying. This blog has chronicled Chris Medlock's stalwart efforts in support of fair treatment for homeowners.
Chris Medlock is the clear choice in this race. We need him, and more like him, on the City Council.
I got to know Chris Medlock through the county Republican organization. He and I served together on the platform committee, and I appreciated his quick mind, gracious manner, and sense of humor.
We need people on the Council who bring to the job some capacity for independent thought and judgment. Chris Medlock excels in that regard. He is a voracious reader, particularly of books on public policy. He devotes himself to studying and understanding the issues before him as a councilor. When he has something to present to his fellow councilors, he works to make his case in a logical and compelling fashion. This diligence was evident in the presentation he made regarding the unfair treatment endured by the 71st & Harvard neighbors in the handling of their protest petition.
Sam Roop is another Councilor who applies himself diligently to the job, studying the issues and coming to an independent judgment.
Sam Roop is the choice in the District 5 Republican Primary.
Sam Roop has taken some hits over the years for asking tough questions of the the administration, particularly on budget matters. He has been targeted for defeat time and again, and it was a close shave last time out. He has asserted the Council's role for oversight and insisted on the Council having the staff and resources to monitor the City's executive branch.
In the entries preceding this one, you will find my analysis and endorsements the City Council primary races. (I have written about four of the races so far, and will address the other four primaries in later entries.)
Why am I, as a Republican in District 4, concerning myself with races in other districts for other parties? Because however good or bad my own councilor is, he's only got one vote, and it's the majority of the Council that will determine if we have fair and efficient city government. Party primaries matter because three races will be decided in the primary, and in another seat, Democrats have a tremendous registration advantage.
Even if you don't live in the subject district, you have friends that live there and you can encourage them to vote for the good guys. You can also volunteer to help the best candidates in each district and contribute financially. As a former candidate, I can tell you that even a small contribution or a little bit of volunteer effort is welcome and greatly appreciated, and many small donations and many one-hour volunteering stints add up quickly to make a real difference.
The next entry previous is an essay from my 2002 campaign website on the essential qualities of a good City Councilor.
I wrote the essay below for my 2002 campaign website. It explains why I think the City Council matters, why voters should care who sits on the City Council, and what qualities voters should look for in choosing their representative on the Council. The gist is that we need Councilors who will seek first to represent their district's interests -- no one else will -- while being mindful of the needs of the City; who have the intelligence and desire to do the hard work of thoughtful legislation; and who will ask polite but tough questions to ensure that taxpayers are getting their money's worth.
Here are some excerpts, the link below will lead you to the full essay:
...when you've gone down to City Hall for Tuesday morning committee meetings and Thursday night regular meetings, as I have, and talked to Councilors, Council staffers, and the ordinary citizens who come to address the Council on some matter, you realize that the City Council has an impact on Tulsa's quality of life, and it has the potential to become an even greater asset to the City.
The Council performs three crucial functions that no other body can perform: representation, legislation, and oversight. If it fails to fill these roles adequately, Tulsa loses.
By speaking for his constituents' interests, a City Councilor bridges the gap between City Hall and the parts of the city that feel disenfranchised. By recommending candidates for mayoral appointments, a City Councilor helps ensure that Tulsa's diversity is represented throughout city government. By taking an active role in setting city priorities, a City Councilor ensures that our plans for the future will benefit Tulsans from every walk of life.
A City Councilor must remember that he is there to represent his district's interests at City Hall. He is not an ambassador from City Hall to the district.
On the Council's law-making role:
The Council frequently deals with zoning and land-use laws: changing the zoning on an individual piece of land, revising the Comprehensive Plan for an area, or general reform of the zoning laws.
A Councilor needs to have a grasp of the complexities of the law, and an awareness of the risks and potential rewards of a change. The Law of Unintended Consequences is in full effect, and a bad decision can undermine years of hard work and thousands of dollars that homeowners and business owners have invested in their properties. A Councilor must also be able to think "outside the box" -- willing to consider creative solutions to reach a win-win outcome for all concerned.
To fulfill its oversight and legislative responsibilities, the Council needs the independent resources and freedom of action to research issues and to evaluate the information it receives from the city administration. There is a cost involved, but the ability to get a sound second opinion is necessary if we want a excellent, efficient government.
From time to time, exercising effective oversight means saying "no." A good Council will cooperate with the Mayor whenever possible, but some plans are wrong for Tulsa, and the Council needs the guts to send them back to the drawing board.
This is the most clear-cut race on the ballot. Tulsa needs John Eagleton on the City Council, and Tulsa needs to remove the bizarre character who currently occupies that seat. This is a key race, one which will be decided in the Republican primary on February 3, and is perhaps the best chance to replace a bad councilor with an excellent one.
John Eagleton is a native Tulsan, the fourth generation of Tulsans in the legal profession. After graduating from ORU School of Law in 1986, Eagleton served as Assistant District Attorney for three years before starting his own practice specializing in criminal law and family law. While our state legislature sometimes seems to be overrun with attorneys, we could use at least one city councilor who has a legal background. As a councilor, John Eagleton would be able to help his colleagues evaluate the advice coming out of the City Attorney's office.
In addition to his legal experience, Eagleton has an undergraduate degree in accounting. Smaller, more efficient government has been a key theme of his, and he would use his accounting knowledge to help taxpayers get better services for our tax dollars.
John Eagleton wants to make Tulsa a better place to do business and would address taxes and regulations that hinder local entrepreneurs.
As an attorney, Eagleton understands the importance of following the rules and keeping the process fair. He was appalled by the treatment received by homeowners in the 71st & Harvard zoning case and has been supportive of homeowners' concerns about the process.
John Eagleton is a social conservative as well as a fiscal conservative, and is committed to the sanctity of human life, to traditional values, and to the individual's right to keep and bear arms.
There are two good men, Eric Gomez and Larry Self, running in the District 4 Republican primary for the opportunity to defeat incumbent Tom Baker. Baker has shown himself to be an opponent of fair treatment for homeowners, has disappointed many of his former supporters, and is vulnerable to be defeated in this district, where party labels don't matter as much as principles.
Eric Gomez is the best choice for District 4 City Councilor.
Eric is past president and a long-time board member of Renaissance Neighborhood Association. A native of Fort Worth, Eric came here at age 22 and put down roots, getting involved in many aspects of community life. He owns a small renovation and remodeling firm and is a Realtor with Keller Williams.
This is one of three primary races, which will decide the winner of a City Council seat.
Roscoe Turner is the clear choice in this race.
During his time as a Councilor and as Council Chairman, Roscoe Turner built a bipartisan consensus to increase Council oversight of the executive branch (the Mayor's Office and the departments) and to give due attention to the concerns of homeowners about urban development. Although he is a Democrat, that did not stop him from asking tough questions about fellow Democrat Mayor Susan Savage's administration and opposing her on a number of key issues. In exchange for his devoted service to taxpayers and homeowners, Turner was savaged by the Tulsa Whirled, which expended a great deal of ink denouncing him before the 2002 primary. You might get the idea that the Whirled just doesn't appreciate someone asking tough questions.
This is another rematch race, and another race that will be decided in the February 3 primary. Todd Huston is the better choice in this election.
Todd Huston served on the City Council from 2000 to 2002. He was one of several councilors targeted for defeat by the Tulsa Whirled and Mayor Susan Savage for asking tough questions of city officials. He was also a consistent supporter of homeowners' concerns.
Todd is a lightning rod, and in his determination to get something done has been known to rub people the wrong way. Sometimes he shoots from the hip. But on balance, I believe his willingness to ask tough questions, dig for answers and be an advocate for ordinary citizens makes him the better choice. His opponent, Bill Christiansen, has some positive accomplishments, but he has blocked some important initiatives, joined Democrats in a resolution designed to embarass President Bush and Congressman Sullivan on the President's Head Start initiative, and there are questions about whether he has used his position on the Council to gain an unfair competitive advantage for his business, which is based at City-owned Jones Riverside Airport.
Howard Dean's campaign got a lot of buzz for its use of the Internet, and a website is considered required for serious congressional races, but local candidates have been slower to take up the practice.
In 2002, some of the newspaper and TV station websites provided online information about the mayoral and council candidates. This year none of them are bothering with this; the only election highlighted on local media websites is the upcoming Democratic presidential primary.
This entry will be a placeholder for council candidate websites as they go online. Bookmark the permanent link at the bottom of this entry (the time stamp). If you know of one I missed, e-mail me at blog at batesline dot com.
Chris Medlock, Republican, www.chrismedlock.com
Roscoe Turner, Democrat, www.roscoeturner.com
Eric Gomez, Republican, www.eric4tulsa.com
Andy Phillips, Democrat, www.andyfortulsa.com
Jim Mautino, Republican, http://members.cox.net/jamesmautino
John Eagleton, Republican, www.johneagleton.com
Todd Huston, Republican, www.toddhuston.com
And before anyone asks, no, despite the resemblance, this is NOT Randy Sullivan's official website.
UPDATE: Added Roscoe Turner's website. Interesting that, so far, the only candidates with websites are the good guys.
UPDATE (1/27/04): Added Andy Phillips' website. I'm told he's a good guy, too.
UPDATE (1/29/04): Another good guy -- added Jim Mautino's webpage.