Tulsa Election 2006: April 2006 Archives

Just heard this by phone -- it isn't on the OSCN case file yet. Judge Doris Fransein has ordered a new election for Tulsa City Council District 5 between Bill Martinson and Jon Kirby. There were more votes cast by ineligible voters than the 21-vote margin of victory, so there is no way of knowing who would have won if those ineligible voters hadn't voted.

The last time this happened was in the 2004 District 3 Democratic primary. In that case, the order came down on March 12, and the new election date was set for April 6. It would be possible for this revote to be held on May 9th, at the same time as the 3rd Penny vote.

I'm told that through the recount and irregularities process, Martinson has had the support of his fellow politicians who are clients of campaign consultant Jim Burdge: Paul Prather (lost the District 2 primary), Jeff Stava (lost the District 9 primary), and Sam Roop (former District 5 Councilor).

UPDATE: Here's a KTUL story about the judge's order.

Inauguration day photos

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Monday afternoon, I pulled my nine-year-old out of school early and we met my wife and the other two kids at Gilcrease Museum for the inauguration of the Mayor, City Auditor, and City Council of Tulsa. We were happy to be there to honor our friends on the Council who were newly elected and newly re-elected.

Everyone was running a little late. Parking was a complete mess. I saw Alison Eagleton, the wife of one of the new councilors, and Councilor-elect Cason Carter pulling their cars out of a full parking lot and into an overflow lot just as the festivities were set to begin. Gilcrease hosted the event two years ago, but that wasn't a mayoral inauguration, so the crowd was a good deal smaller then. The last mayoral inauguration was held outdoors on the Williams Center Green.

The room was packed to capacity. We said hello to Councilors Roscoe Turner and Jack Henderson and their wives as we walked past the VIP section. Jim East offered my wife his seat and my daughter took the empty seat next to it, while I took the baby and his big brother and found a place to stand near the back of the room. My holding a very cute baby meant that there were some smiles in my direction from people who normally wouldn't smile at me.

We wound up standing just behind Ginger Shepherd, UTW's new city reporter, and just in front of Becky Darrow, from South Tulsa Citizens Coalition and Tulsans Defending Democracy. I noticed that the baby was much happier if I held him on my left shoulder where he could flirt with Becky.

Since no one (maybe not even Kathy Taylor) really knows what a Kathy Taylor administration is going to look like, we are all like a bunch of Sovietologists trying to discern the inner workings of the Kremlin based on who is standing next to whom atop Lenin's Tomb during the May Day parade.

The first clue of the day wasn't an encouraging one: Former KRMG morning host John Erling was the Master of Ceremonies. Erling was the radio mouthpiece of the Good Ol' Boy network, finally driven from his microphone last year by declining ratings.

Taylor's speech? Nothing much specific. She talked about her administration representing the diversity of Tulsa. If she really means geographical and ideological diversity, that's great. If she means there's a place at the table for supporters of Chris Medlock and Don McCorkell and Bill LaFortune and even Ben Faulk, that's wonderful. If she plans to look beyond the Midtown Money Belt for appointments to authorities, boards, and commissions, I applaud her. I hope she didn't mean that she'll surround herself with people who think just like she does and justify it because they have a diversity of ethnic backgrounds or political party affiliations.

My five-year-old daughter, who is on the petite side herself, complained after the ceremony that she still hadn't seen the new Mayor's face in person; she could only see the top of Taylor's head over the heads of the people in front of her.

We stayed around for a long time after the ceremony, shaking hands and chatting. I took a few pictures of dignitaries, and I had my son take a few of me with some of the councilors, but I missed a few shots I wanted because my son was busy taking pictures out the Vista Room window of the Osage Hills in bloom. (If you're on the home page, click the "Continue reading" link to see the photos.)

I had this big music post in mind for tonight, but I am just too tired to write. Here's what other Tulsa bloggers are writing about:

Homeowners for Fair Zoning salutes Councilor Jim Mautino, who is returning to private life, after the Good Ol' Boy network finally beat him on the fourth of four tries.

Brian C. Biggs has a diagram illustrating the way politicians process debate questions.

Tyson Wynn has audio of Bill LaFortune's concession speech and Kathy Taylor's victory speech. And he has posted some election night thoughts.

Michelle has had it with voting. (It's hard to vote when you have to use one hand to hold your nose.)

Dan Paden waited, and waited, and waited for Bill LaFortune to "throw him a bone." What he meant by that phrase was this:

If LaFortune had done just one thing--something, anything concrete--to decisively sever his relationships with the GOB network, I'd vote for him. But instead, it seems to me that his every move has been calculated to leave the possibility of a reconciliation with the GOB elite open.

In the end, it was his trusty reverse barometer, the Tulsa Whirled, that made up his mind:

During all my deliberations, I hadn't asked myself, "Would the Whirled want me to vote for LaFortune, or for Faulk?" That seemed a no-brainer; Faulk is no threat at all to them. LaFortune, on the other hand, if he wins, and if he's true to what he said on KFAQ, would at least not be what they wanted: Kathy Taylor.

Bobby meant to vote LaFortune but his hand had other ideas. He reviews the Council results and urges his new District 9 councilor, Cason Carter, to stick close to fellow newcomers John Eagleton and Rick Westcott. Good advice.

On Wednesday, KOTV's Steve Berg asked me, my friend and outgoing councilor Chris Medlock, and my friend and new councilor Maria Barnes about the makeup of the new council.

Mad Okie says goodbye and good riddance to the LaFortune administration.

Elsewhere in Tulsa:

D. Schuttler says goodbye and good riddance to the TulsaNow forum, where a moderator deleted and edited his entries that were critical of the moderation policy.

Steve Roemerman says hello to a new Tulsa-based and Tulsa-focused discussion forum called The Voice of Tulsa. Check it out.

Steve also reports on the City Council's decision "to sprinkle or not to sprinkle". That's easy -- immersion is the only Biblical mode....

Steve and his family also visited DoubleShot tonight to enjoy some excellent coffee and express solidarity with the oppressed. He has photos. Bobby at Tulsa Topics wrote about the DoubleShot story earlier in the week.

Good night!

An edited version of this piece was published in the April 5, 2006, issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly. The archived version is no longer online. Posted on the web August 8, 2009.

For multi-partisan city elections

By Michael D. Bates

Once again, dear reader, you have me at a disadvantage. As you read this, you know who will be the next Mayor of Tulsa. As I write this, the election is still in the future. So let's look together at an issue that will be on the table no matter who wins Tuesday's election: the role of party politics in city elections.

A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail from a prominent supporter of Kathy Taylor. He was expressing dismay that Republican leaders were trying to bring the other Republican candidates and their supporters behind Bill LaFortune, the Republican nominee.

I was amused by the tut-tutting about partisanship from the Taylor camp. Shut out as they are from both U. S. Senate seats and all but one congressional district, Democratic strategists are salivating at the prospect of once again having a Democrat as mayor of the state's second-largest city, someone who can attract donations to Democratic candidates for the State Legislature. According to Oologah Lake Leader editor John Wylie, State Rep. Jari Askins said at a recent Democratic fundraiser that "the election of Taylor would be a huge first step in taking back the [State] House and preserving the [State] Senate in 2006" for the Democratic Party.

Even if we strip partisan labels from the city election ballot, politics at all levels are too closely linked to keep the national parties from having an interest and an influence in local elections.

That said, I'm sympathetic to the idea of non-partisan city elections. Twice I proposed a charter amendment that would have eliminated party primaries and replaced them with an all-candidate election, preferably using Instant Runoff Voting (see my March 9th UTW column) or, failing that, a two-round system, with a separate runoff election between the top two if no candidate gets 50% in the first round.

Non-partisan elections are appealing because local political factions don't break neatly along national partisan lines. Chris Medlock says that there are really six "parties" in Tulsa politics, three factions which each have supporters in both national parties.

You have the Midtown old-money elites who are behind the paternalistic plan to replace three of the nine council districts with three citywide supercouncilors; in their view the hayseeds in North, West, and East Tulsa can't be trusted with self-government. Then there are the developers and the Chamber bureaucrats, who look at City government as a way to serve their institutional and business interests and don't want homeowners and small business to have even a seat at the table.

Finally, there are the populist grass-roots - the rest of us - who believe that city government should serve the interests of all Tulsans, not just a favored few, and that Tulsans from all classes and all parts of the city deserve a seat at the table.

There are Democrats and Republicans in all three factions, and they often find more kinship with those who share their outlook on city government than with their fellow Ds or Rs. That's how you wind up with a reform alliance on the city council made up of two Democrats and two Republican, opposed by a status quo caucus consisting of four Republicans and one Democrat.

Because our city primary system follows national party lines, the struggle between the three trans-partisan factions is often settled in the primary, and the general election doesn't offer much of a choice. Also, party labels on a general election ballot can be misleading. You'd think a Republican would oppose higher taxes or that a Democrat would oppose corporate welfare, but that ain't necessarily so. An R or a D doesn't tell the voter with which of the three city factions a candidate is aligned.

Would stripping party labels entirely be helpful to voters? In fact, it gives voters even less information to work with. Labels are helpful aids to memory. You may have trouble remembering the name of the candidates you plan to support, and knowing that you decided to vote with your party in the mayor's race and with the other party in the council race gives you an extra hook to recall your decision.

It's indisputable that non-partisan elections have lower turnout. You see this in judicial and school board elections here in Oklahoma, and it's borne out across the country. The theory is that voters, lacking even the little sliver of information that a party label provides, don't feel they know enough to make a choice and so they stay away.
On the same day that 60,000 Tulsans turned out to vote in our city primaries, only 14,000 Oklahoma City voters participated in their non-partisan mayor's race. That number was inflated above normal levels by the Oklahoma Republican Party chairman urging support for the re-election of Mayor Mick Cornett, a registered Republican. Just shy of 11,000 voted in the 2002 OKC mayor's race.

So how do we change Tulsa's system to expand both choice and information for voters?

Instead of non-partisan city elections, let's have multi-partisan elections. Put all candidates for a city office on the ballot, but instead of stripping away the party labels, let's let candidates apply the label or labels of their choosing. Maybe that would be a major party label, maybe that would be the name of a political action committee (PAC), or even both.

The actual mechanics would go something like this: Candidates would file their petitions for office. (With no primaries to filter candidates, everyone should have to collect 300 signatures in order to run.) Each PAC registered with the City Clerk's office would then have a week to submit to the election board the list of candidates they are endorsing. The county political parties would have the same opportunity if they choose to exercise it. Each candidate would then choose which party and PAC endorsements would appear next to his name on the ballot.

For example, this year the District 6 Council ballot might have looked like this:

  • James Mautino - Republican, Homeowners for Fair Zoning
  • Theresa Buchert - Grow Tulsa PAC, Bank of Oklahoma PAC
  • Dennis Troyer - Democrat, N. E. Oklahoma Labor Council

With at least three candidates likely in every race on the ballot, we'd have to have some form of runoff; Instant Runoff Voting would be the best way to ensure that the winner would be chosen by a majority of voters. (Again, see my March 9th UTW column or www.fairvote.org for details.)

Non-partisan municipal elections would give Tulsans fewer and murkier choices. A multi-partisan ballot with a sound runoff system is the best way to give Tulsa's voters clearer, better, and more plentiful options when we choose our representatives at City Hall.

End of the line

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After the polls closed, I stopped off at one polling place (precinct 100) to get a sense of what happened, then drove on to Jim Mautino's watch party at the American Legion hall. There were a lot of good neighborhood activists there, not only from east Tulsa, but from all over town, people who worked for Jim's re-election. The eats were great -- Big Daddy's Barbecue. The result was close but ultimately disappointing. I'm sure Jim and his wife Bonnie are happy to have their lives back. Jim has worked very hard for all of us, and we should be grateful for what he's given to the city.

Steve Roemerman and I left Jim's party and caravaned down to the Mayo Hotel to the LaFortune watch party. The Mayor made a very graceful concession speech.

I'll be on KFAQ in the morning 6:10 trying to make sense of tonight's results. Meanwhile, go visit meeciteewurkor's Tulsa headlines page for links to what other Tulsa bloggers are saying about the results.

KTUL has all the results on a single page.

Election media notes

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I'll be on 1170 KFAQ again with Michael DelGiorno between 6 and 7 in the morning, mainly to talk about the charter amendments (vote FOR all six!) and the Council races in Districts 3, 4, 5, 6, and 9.

Chris Medlock will be on 740 KRMG with Joe Kelley at 6:20 and possibly again at 6:50 to talk about the six charter amendments.

Earlier today, I was interviewed by KJRH's Jaclyn Allen about likely turnout tomorrow. Allen also spoke to TU professor Gary Allison. The story should be on their 10 p.m. newscast on channel 2 (cable channel 9).

BOA corrector

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Something Bill LaFortune deserves, but hasn't received, credit for, is reshaping the city's Board of Adjustment (BOA). The BOA is a quasi-judicial body that is authorized to grant variances from the regulations of the zoning code. The BOA also considers requests for special exceptions, where the zoning code allows a certain use in a certain set of circumstances, but the BOA must weigh neighborhood compatibility before granting the exception.

A variance is only supposed to be granted if a hardship exists -- something about the arrangement land and buildings that would result in an absurd situation if the zoning laws were strictly applied. A hardship can't be self-imposed and can't be economic in nature. By state law, the BOA can't grant "use variances" -- for example, they can't authorize the use of a house for a restaurant in a residentially-zoned area.

Until recently, variances were routinely granted in cases that lacked a legitimate hardship. I remember a case where an outbuilding was approved when it greatly exceeded the zoning code's limits on accessory building size. The BOA found the hardship to be that the lot was large.

Mayor LaFortune's three appointments to the BOA -- Clayda Stead, Frazier Henke, and Michael Tidwell -- have taken a strict approach to granting variances. They understand that, while they may think something should be permitted that isn't, it isn't their place to legislate from the bench.

Council pressure played an important role in the new appointments. Some councilors made it clear that they wouldn't support the reappointment of certain BOA members. In this case, at least, LaFortune respected the Council's wishes and sent down new names.

One final note: I have a great deal of respect for David White, one of the BOA members who was replaced by LaFortune. Although I didn't agree with his approach to the variance issue, I appreciated his fairness, integrity, and availability to answer questions. Dave regularly attended meetings of the Midtown Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, often right after the conclusion of marathon BOA hearings, and was willing to explain his rationale on controversial decisions and to help us understand factors, such as court decisions and federal law, which the BOA has to weigh alongside the text of the zoning code.

Since these haven't yet been posted on the UTW website, I'll post them here:

Introduction

Below are the responses submitted by Bill LaFortune to the Urban Tulsa Weekly questionnaire. Democrat nominee Kathy Taylor and Independent candidate Benford L. Faulk did not submit replies.

Paul Tay submitted his reply prior to the primary, and did not respond to the opportunity to reply to the two additional questions (11 and 12) added to the general election questionnaire. You can read Tay's response, which includes his proposed cabinet, a couple of vulgarities, and a lengthy digression about the deflation of his erstwhile inflatable companion, on his blog.

The City Council website has details about the six charter amendments, including ballot language and the changes to the charter text for each. UTW endorses passage of all six.

For more information about the candidates, www.TulsaTopics.com has links to all the candidate websites, a printable "tournament bracket" for the city elections, and audio of the mayoral forum sponsored by TulsaNow and Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa. David Schuttler´┐Żs Our Tulsa World blog has video from many Mayoral and Council candidate forums.

Homeowners for Fair Zoning has posted their endorsements in the City Council races and on the charter amendments.

Here's the complete BatesLine archive of entries about Election 2006.

The Tulsa Whirled is making its archive of Election 2006 stories available outside their firewall. Sumite cum grano salis.

To look up your district and polling place and to see sample ballot images, visit the Tulsa County Election Board website.

Other UTW election resources:

Click the "continue reading" link to see LaFortune's questionnaire responses.

You can watch the entire KOTV debate between Bill LaFortune and Kathy Taylor online. The most interesting part starts at about 26 minutes in, when the each has the chance to ask the other a question.

Today I spent an hour or so walking neighborhoods for District 6 City Councilor Jim Mautino. Jim and Bonnie Mautino
I had family obligations, so I arrived after several others had already been hard at work for a few hours. Jim's volunteers included leaders in Homeowners for Fair Zoning and Tulsans Defending Democracy. There were Democrats and Republicans, folks from District 6 who appreciate Jim's hard work on behalf of the district, and folks from other districts who appreciate how Jim works with other councilors for fair treatment at City Hall for all Tulsans. Jim was out there with us, working harder and walking faster than any of us. Our efforts were rewarded with a hearty spaghetti lunch, prepared by Jim's wife, Bonnie.

While at the Mautinos' house, I was shown the mailer sent out by Mautino's opponent, Dennis Troyer. Troyer (Verne, not Dennis) The mailer was identical in layout to the mailer used two years ago by Art Justis, the councilor who was defeated by Mautino, and it listed the same bunch of supporters that backed Justis and backed the attempt to recall Mautino.

Troyer signed the recall petition, which tells me that he is fundamentally opposed to City Hall reform. His fundraising report also points to his anti-reform leanings: He received $1,500 from the David Patrick Campaign, $2,000 from Friends of David Patrick, and $3,000 from Grow Tulsa, a PAC funded by World Publishing Co., Howard Barnett (of Tulsans for Better Government, the group behind the at-large supercouncilor idea), BOk Chairman George Kaiser, the BOk Financial Corp PAC, C. Arnold Brown, Dave Presley, and Reuben Davis. Like Barnett, the Whirled has been a vocal supporter of the at-large supercouncilors, as a way of undoing the progress that has been made by electing grassroots councilors like Jim Mautino. Kaiser and BOk PAC fielded a team of candidates in the primaries, trying to pack the Council, largely without success. Patrick was a consistent vote for the Good Ol' Boy network during his years on the Council.

Just like the recall, the Troyer campaign is funded by outside interests who want a puppet at City Hall, not a councilor who actively works for the best interests of East Tulsa and the entire city.

Jim Mautino has a solid record of achievement in getting improvements for District 6, and I feel sure that District 6 voters will reject the pleas of the big money interests and vote on Tuesday to re-elect Jim Mautino.

(* That photo is actually of Verne Troyer, who is, as far as I know, no relation to Dennis Troyer. But it might be fair to regard Dennis Troyer as Art Justis's ideological Mini-Me.)

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Election 2006 category from April 2006.

Tulsa Election 2006: March 2006 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Election 2006: May 2006 is the next archive.

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