He said it.
"The length of the campaign is way too long," said Mayor Dewey Bartlett, responding to a question about the new non-partisan rules for Tulsa's mayoral election.
Murmurs of assent from the audience notwithstanding, it's actually now just a short sprint to the November finish line for Bartlett and opponent Kathy Taylor.
Each answered crisply in response to a variety of questions posed in an Oct. 7 debate hosted by radio station KWGS and the local Kiwanis club.
Bartlett struggled in primary debates, but he cracked jokes and appeared much more at ease in presenting himself as a job creator interested in improving government efficiency.
"My basic belief is we can manage our way out of this problem," Bartlett said when asked about recent concerns related to jail overcrowding.
Taylor, who served as mayor before Bartlett, spoke more aggressively against her opponent.
"I governed during the nation's record recession. We had $84 million dollars less in our operating budget than Mayor Bartlett has today," Taylor said.
Cops for Kathy.
Tulsa's police union has endorsed mayoral hopeful Kathy Taylor.
The Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police voted Oct. 2 to support Taylor over Mayor Dewey Bartlett.
In a news conference the next morning, Ron Bartmier, a former Tulsa police officer now serving as president of the Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police, compared former mayor Taylor's approach to police to how Bartlett has dealt with the police union.
"We met with Kathy Taylor and her administration for a few years in dealing with all the situations and economic problems as well as contract negotiations. While we didn't always see eye to eye on things, she was very fair and she always had a seat at the table for us," Bartmier said. "I can't really say the same thing about the current administration. It's like, 'My way or the highway.'"
At the same news conference, Taylor laid out some ideas for improving public safety, including strengthening the city's 911 call services. Another group, a public safety task force convened by the city, noted in December the reduction in 911 staffing over the years. While Taylor stopped short of saying more people would be hired, she pledged to study what the appropriate staffing should be as a way to improve service.
In an interview, Taylor said the staffing level is "really something that needs to be evaluated on a regular basis based upon the number of calls that are coming in."
Taylor's plan also calls for working with the police department to civilianize positions, a process that's already underway. Her plan also calls for more crime data to be made public and upgrading old record management systems.
Among other proposals, Taylor also talked about emulating what are known as "drug-free neighborhood detail" programs in cities like Kansas City and Jacksonville, Fla. This approach involves collaboration between police, prosecutors, civil attorneys and community groups, all focused on reducing drug dealing.
The city has already had more homicides this year than last year, through statistics for robberies and aggravated assaults don't show an upward trend.
In an interview, Taylor cited results of a 2011 citizens survey that listed public safety as a strong concern in Tulsa.
"I think a mayor needs to listen to that. Secondly, you look at your peer cities. We should be, in all categories of crime, better and certainly not worse than our peer cities," Taylor said.
School board announcement.
Once again, Keith Ballard has postponed retirement.
At the Oct. 7 Tulsa Public Schools board meeting, it was announced that Ballard will stay on as superintendent through the 2014-2015 school year.
Ballard took over the top spot in 2008, but in May of 2012 announced plans to retire in a year. Instead, he agreed to stay on after some of the district's top administrators left for other jobs.
This school year, there's been a major administrative re-organization, with the creation of new Instructional Leadership Director positions as well as a new number two position now in place. Ballard will stay on to help with the change and likely continue to be a strong voice in the statewide education arena.
Geopolitical price pull.
Oklahoma gas prices this year never topped the record levels of $3.95 per gallon set in 2008.
But the range has been from roughly $2.80 to $3.80 over the past several months, largely without the hue and cry from the earlier era.
"I think we've come to accept a new normal for gasoline prices," said Chuck Mai, vice president of public affairs for AAA Oklahoma.
At least the price has creeping toward that lower end of the range in recent weeks, dipping below the $3 mark. That trend should continue, Mai said.
"We expect prices to fall another 25 or 30 cents by the end of the year, that's if nothing catastrophic happens," Mai said.
News that we must report.
Police on Oct. 7 arrested Bradley Morris on suspicion of breaking a law prohibiting sexual contact between teachers and high school students. He is now formerly Urban Tulsa Weekly's editorial manager and arts writer.
From 2000 until 2011, Morris taught music at Edison High School. Multiple felony charges have been filed in Tulsa County District Court against Morris, 44, including three counts of sexual battery. Records show that investigators found evidence of improper contact taking place on four different dates in 2010 and 2011.
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