Urban Tulsa Weekly: June 2006 Archives

The final report from Tulsa's Citizens' Commission on City Government is the topic of this week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly. The commission, appointed by then-Mayor Bill LaFortune last December, finished on schedule, made some constructive recommendations, including a recommendation against adding at-large seats to the City Council.

You can find the full text of the Citizens' Commission on City Government report on the Tulsans Defending Democracy website.

Also in this week's UTW, Ginger Shepherd covers the new Tulsa Public Schools superintendent, downtown revitalization in Muskogee, the recently passed City of Tulsa budget, and the sweet no-bid contract Murphy Bros. got to continue to run the Tulsa State Fair midway.

The story quotes Jerry Murphy, owner of Murphy Bros.:

Murphy added, “why would you fire someone that is doing a good job?” and been doing it for a long time?

In fact, the midway has been a disappointment for a long time, and Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority (TCPFA -- the fair board) members owed it to the public to see if another operator couldn't bring better, more reliable rides for better prices, but instead they continued the Tulsa County practice of awarding contracts to insiders without competition. Jerry Murphy's wife, Loretta Murphy, contributed $5,000 to the mayoral campaign of County Commissioner Randi Miller, who is also a member of the TCPFA and voted to approve the contract with Murphy Bros.

Beach-ed appointment

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This week's column in UTW is about Mayor Kathy Taylor's first batch of appointments to city authorities, boards, and commissions (ABCs), particularly the appointment of Jim Beach to the Board of Adjustment, a move that has drawn opposition from neighborhood leaders and may provoke the end of Taylor's honeymoon. Taylor's appointment of Steve Berlin, a Great Plains Airlines board member, to the TARE board is also controversial.

Yesterday, long after I filed the story, I got word that the Taylor administration had pulled Beach's appointment off of this Thursday's Council agenda, and in fact it is missing from the online agenda, while the other appointments are still present.

Someone has said that any appointment to the Board of Adjustment is bound to be controversial, and that's true. You're almost certain to upset either the development lobby or the homeowners' groups. You have to choose which group you want to please and which group you want to anger, and Kathy Taylor has chosen to please the development lobby and anger neighborhood leaders with her first pick. That says a lot about the direction of her administration.

Also in this week's issue is Ginger Shepherd's story about the planned cleanup of Tent City, an unauthorized campground for the homeless between the north bank of the Arkansas River and the levee, west of downtown.

Shepherd also has a story about former Councilor and mayoral candidate Chris Medlock and his campaign for State House District 69.

Remembering Jane Jacobs

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Jane Jacobs, the urban observer who helped blow away the cobwebs of urban planning dogma so that we could see what really makes a city work, passed away in April. My Urban Tulsa Weekly column last week was a salute to Jane Jacobs, highlighting three lessons from her landmark 1960 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, one of my favorite books.

Also of note last week: Jamie Pierson's first column for UTW, in which she recalls a suburban Tulsa upbringing, gives thanks for her midtown-based young adulthood, and gives a tongue-in-cheek call for deannexing everything south of I-44.

My column this week in Urban Tulsa Weekly looks back at the Oklahoma legislative session just ended and the state election filing period next Monday through Wednesday, June 5 through 7.

SB 1324, the bill that would have interfered with local control of zoning, was dealt a humiliating 42-3 defeat in the State Senate, while its sister bill HB 2559 died in conference committee. SB 1742, a landmark pro-life bill, won by overwhelming margins in both houses and was signed by the governor. The legislators on the wrong side of those issues deserve special scrutiny as they face re-election this year, but they won't get any scrutiny unless they have an opponent.

In particular, District 70 Representative Ron Peters and District 72 Darrell Gilbert haven't faced opposition in six years and eight years respectively, and I'm hoping someone will step forward to challenge each of them.

District 3 Tulsa County Commissioner Bob Dick has yet to announce his plans, and it's beginning to look like Dick is trying a J. C. Watts-style handoff to his handpicked successor. You'll recall that Watts announced at the last minute in 2002 that he wouldn't be seeking re-election to Congress. Candidates that might have run for that open seat were caught flat-footed, but Watts' political consultant and chosen heir, Tom Cole, had advance knowledge of Watts' plans and was ready to run right away.

Speculation is that Dick's chosen successor is either Tulsa City Councilor Bill Christiansen or former State Sen. Jerry Smith. The district covers the southern part of midtown Tulsa, south Tulsa, Broken Arrow, and Bixby. (Click here to see a map of the Tulsa County Commission Districts.) The district is heavily Republican, and there has to be some man or woman of integrity and wisdom among the tens of thousands of registered Republicans in the district who would be willing to step forward and serve as a candidate.

Given the huge pot of money under the control of the Tulsa County Commissioners -- well over half a billion in Vision 2025 money, plus Four to Fix the County tax dollars, plus millions more money available to lend in their role as the Tulsa County Industrial Authority -- and the County Commission's propensity to avoid competitive bidding, we need to clean house at the County Commission. Having Bob Dick or his handpicked successor in office is not an acceptable result.

If you are considering a race for any of those seats, or would like more information about being a candidate, I'd be glad to talk with you. Drop me an e-mail at blog at batesline dot com.

UPDATE: The Whirled is reporting that Bob Dick is running for re-election and Bill Christiansen plans to challenge him. Not much of a choice. With the fans of insider deals splitting their votes between Christiansen and Dick, a conservative reformer could easily gain enough primary votes to make the runoff and then win the runoff. (That's more or less how Tim Harris came out of nowhere to win the DA's office back in 1998.)

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Urban Tulsa Weekly category from June 2006.

Urban Tulsa Weekly: May 2006 is the previous archive.

Urban Tulsa Weekly: July 2006 is the next archive.

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

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