Tulsa Election 2004: February 2004 Archives

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.

School board District 5 boundaries


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.

School board election Tuesday


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.


District 3 recount Thursday 9:30


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:

Analysis to come soon


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.

Find your City Council district


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.)

What's at stake?


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:

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.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Election 2004 category from February 2004.

Tulsa Election 2004: January 2004 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Election 2004: March 2004 is the next archive.

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



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