There is a new air of cooperation within our local government and with both our county and state governments that is very refreshing. Whether it's between the mayor and the City Council or the city and the county or the city and the state, the atmosphere today is much cleaner, healthier, and beneficial than what it was just a few short years ago.
As much as we want to forget those "bad old days," most will remember when the city was suing the county, fighting with the sheriff, and some on the City Council wanted absolutely nothing to do with county leaders. In fact most councilors preferred county conflict to county collaboration.
Thank goodness those days and those people are gone; we should not want either to return. The citizens made that point clear in the latest citizens' survey, in which 74 percent supported the city and county doing more together to save money and improve services. Public service is, after all, about politicians doing what the citizens elected them to do, not what they want to do.
Collaboration and cooperation can be contagious. We are now witnessing the mayor and City Council continuing to work together on establishing a joint vision on what Tulsa needs. Gone are the ridiculous efforts of the past council to have the attorney general oust the Mayor for no valid reasons whatsoever. Thankfully city elections can be cleansing. Today there are 10 elected city officials doing what they were hired and are paid to do: work together while they are working for us.
When we changed to the council district form of government, there were some who feared that a divided ward system would stymie development and no one would be able to look out for the city as a whole, that each councilor would just look at his piece of the pie, not the whole pie. Fortunately, over the past two years that has not occurred as the mayor and council have sat down to develop jointly supported goals that moves Tulsa forward as the "seamless city."
The mayor and City Council are showing that they can be the mayor and City Council for all of Tulsa. Building a seamless city means that you feel safe when you go from one part to another part of town; you see businesses develop; you see good parks and streets and neighborhood beautification efforts. All parts of the city are not the same and that will always be true. But a seamless city is an attitude that we are all in it together. It means we don't pit one area against another but work toward advancing the entire city by addressing the needs of the parts.
Building a seamless city comes about when, as Ben Franklin said, "Little strokes fell great oaks." Over the past few years, there have been many "little strokes" that the mayor and council have worked together on: areas such as the persistence to develop the Arkansas River shore line, putting public safety first, remembering the legacy of the oil and gas industry, remembering that Tulsa once was "America's Most Beautiful City," and focusing on all forms and means of transportation. At the end of the day, it's these big picture visions that the citizens really care about.
Tulsans should be pleased to know that when the mayor and City Council work together, their focus on what's important is very clear. It really comes down to five priorities: economic development and job creation, public safety, support of public education, building a vibrant downtown and neighborhoods, and to improve government operations. And the reason Tulsa is moving in the right direction on all five of these fronts is because the mayor and City Council understand that the most effective leadership is servant leadership.
As a city, we have faced some tough challenges over the past several years: the worst recession in our history, the worst police corruption scandal in our history, the worst snow storm and drought in our history. Dealing with these and bringing calm is hard work. When the city appears to be moving forward smoothly it's because there is a lot of effort going on behind the scenes to work through the challenges that find their way to City Hall without letting them distract from the primary mission of advancing the quality of life in Tulsa. The mission is as clear today as it was 70 years ago when the British were told: "Keep calm and carry on."
It's not always easy picking the right mix of people who can serve together in government. Sometimes it's good to have their differences. The heat and fire of debate and argument can produce strong public policies. Other times, it can be destructive and a detriment to what's in the city's best interest. It appears now that the wheels of government are working together and in sync with a set of mutually agreeable goals.
One of the reasons Tulsa has struggled to get the traction it needs to move forward with big ideas, big projects, and building the city of tomorrow has been the inconsistency of leadership. Consider that between 1980 and 2002 we had five mayors. But from 2000 and 2010 we've had four mayors. That's right -- 4 mayors over 10 years.
No city, business, school, or any other large organization is going to be able to set goals, create a plan, and achieve great things if we keep changing the top leadership every 24 or 36 months. Instead of being steady and ready, we have changed too much and too often to expect any long term results. As citizens and voters, we need to understand that in order to make the kind of differences we want it takes time to achieve the visions that matter. Each and every time we decide to change the team on the field and start over, we are responsible for either slowing us down or moving us back.
It appears we finally have a team of elected officials who want to work together, want to work with the county, and want to work with the state to make Tulsa the best it can be.
Why would we want to make any type of change in our leadership that would disrupt the unity, harmony, and cooperation we now have? Isn't this what we have always wanted, expected, and been waiting for?
We are better off today than we were but not as good as we're going to be. As long as we continue to see more of what we are seeing now from our city leaders, this team is a winner and we need to stick with them.
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