Priority planning The City Council is working on a new annual list of citywide priorities it calls its compendium of needs, and that list will be submitted to the Mayor's Office for review when it is completed, according to Councilor G.T. Bynum. Bynum and Terry Simonson, Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr.'s chief of staff, have been working to identify areas of common concern between the council and mayor in an effort to help the two entities, which are often at odds, work together. Last month, Simonson examined the council's compendium of needs established last winter and found 21 areas the Bartlett administration also had identified as priorities. He sent that list to Bynum, but now the District 9 councilor believes it would be more beneficial for the Mayor's Office to work from the new list, which he hopes to have completed soon. "The document he was working from was almost a year old and much has changed," Bynum wrote in an e-mail. "I indicated to him that it would be better to use the upcoming Compendium as a starting point rather than plow ahead using dated material." The council is in the process of completing its new list now, Bynum said. "It's part of our annual budget process, and we submit this to the administration," he said. "I would think we would submit this to them by the end of January at the very latest." Councilors submit their priorities individually, then the group gets together to establish its compendium of needs, choosing items from that list of submissions that all councilors agree on. "Obviously, it needs to be (completed) in short order while the Mayor's Office is putting their budget together in the first quarter (of 2011)," he said. When the Mayor's Office has identified areas of common concern from the new list, Bynum and Simonson are hoping they will be able to move forward with the next step in the process, which is establishing groups to work on those issues. The two men hope the process will lead to better interaction between the council and the mayor, replacing the often-rancorous relationship that has been established during the mayor's first year in office. The list Simonson sent to Bynum included such issues as conducting independent audits of the police and fire departments; finding other ways to fund public safety, such as a proposed fire utility fee; hiring more police officers; pushing for state and federal funding to build low-water dams on the Arkansas River; establishing a tax-increment finance district along the Arkansas River; implementing the city's new comprehensive plan; adopting a new citywide trash and recycling service; allowing the city to collect its own sales tax; and identifying better funding for the Tulsa Zoo, among others. "I'm really pleased with their response, and I'm glad Terry has taken the ball and is moving forward with it," Bynum said after receiving that list from Simonson. "It's not going to be enough, though, to just say, 'Here is a list of things we agree on.' This is just the starting point." The City Council voted in August to approve a Bynum proposal calling for a citywide public forum between councilors and the mayor to take place this fall at a location outside the Inner Dispersal Loop, but the mayor was unwilling to take part in that event. Bynum and Simonson in November hatched the current plan as an alternative and have been trying to hash out the details since. Both men have said they envision representatives of the administration and the council getting together in small groups to talk about areas of common concern and determine how the two sides can work together to accomplish those goals. Bynum believes this approach has a good chance of being successful, pointing out that councilors and the administration were able to cooperate on a proposed city charter change to create a rainy day fund for the city, a measure that was approved by voters last month. "That's the model for how we could approach these other issues," he said. "If we do that, gosh, that could be a transformative event in the working relationship between the City Council and the mayor. There is no working relationship right now."
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