POSTED ON JUNE 5, 2013:
Three's a Crowd. "I love elections," said Dewey Bartlett. What else is Tulsa's mayor going to say in front of a room full of voters?
It was just a few minutes after 8am on May 9, a breakfast-time public forum featuring all three leading candidates.
Fast forward a month or so, and it's fair to wonder if Bartlett would still make such a claim. Heading into the Tuesday, June 11, primary, former mayor Kathy Taylor would win in a landslide if Facebook "likes" were tallied.
As of Sunday, June 2, her "Taylor for Tulsa" page had about 11,100 likes, far outpacing the approximately 6,600 likes for the "Bill Christiansen -- Mayor for All of Tulsa" page and the 3,700 likes for "Dewey Bartlett for Tulsa Mayor."
Nobody should read too much into the social media numbers, but Bartlett hasn't had a strong 2013. He's failed to get much in the way of public support for what would be a signature initiative, the diversion of a temporary sales tax -- which would total about $12 million yearly, a small percentage of the city's tax revenue -- to fund additional police and fire academies and preventative street maintenance.
Instead, Tulsa City Council members so far have been cool to the idea, or at least not eager to voice support for the plan. Councilors G.T. Bynum and Karen Gilbert presented a way to alter Bartlett's yearly budget proposal to fund an additional police academy this year, and -- while taking pains to note that their plan is completely separate from Bartlett's long-term proposal -- it's at least a signal that the council and Bartlett aren't on the same page in their approach to public safety funding.
Meanwhile, Bill Christiansen's campaign seems to have clearly set its sights on attacking Bartlett. At a May 29 Christiansen press conference, 13-page packets were handed out to reporters outlining nine numbered "allegations," almost all of them relating to previous news coverage of various controversies Bartlett has encountered during his time in office.
Bartlett's campaign has increasingly focused on Christiansen, complaining about his "political games."
If the proportion of Facebook likes were to directly translate into votes, Taylor would get just over the 50 percent threshold to win the election outright. But both Christiansen and Bartlett will no doubt spend the final few days of the primary season doing their best to convince voters of their worthiness for the job -- or at least the unworthiness of the other guy.
All three major candidates will appear at a televised forum on Thursday, June 6, airing at 6pm on Fox 23. Radio listeners can hear the candidates on KRMG FM 102.3 and AM 740.
Four's a (Republican) Party. While the Tulsa mayoral race is nonpartisan, four candidates are fighting it out in the Republican primary race to represent District 3 (which includes much of south Tulsa) on the Tulsa County Board of Commissioners. It's a special election to replace Fred Perry, who announced he would be stepping down because of health issues before completing his term.
Each candidate responded to questions from the League of Women Voters about how to best allocate county resources and what to do about increasingly crowded conditions at the county-run jail.
Don Crall, the chief executive officer of a protective coatings company, Coating Specialist, Inc., wrote that the county "should allocate resources based on identified needs," and that "unincorporated areas must receive the same consideration of need as incorporated areas."
As far as the jail, Crall wrote that several steps must be taken. Among them, he proposed creating "more ways to assist non-violent offenders in making retribution for non-payment of fines."
Brandon Perkins, a housing developer, serves on the planning commission and three other government boards. He wrote about the importance of fairness "within the framework of a vision driven master plan," calling such a plan "a must" to enable "Tulsa County to foster and develop our entire county."
Perkins wrote that he was looking forward to a report on jail conditions, and he also described the importance of addressing other areas. "We must recognize the important relationship between public safety and education," he wrote.
Ron Peters, president of communications consulting firm Relations, Inc., served for 12 years as a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He cited parks and highway maintenance as examples of districts receiving similar support from the county.
Peters wrote about exploring the use of a former city jail building. He also wrote about possibly "including in the next County public projects initiative funding to add two additional pods on the land adjacent to the current jail."
John Wright lists on his website having worked for the last two years under Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel. For 12 years, he served as a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He wrote about the need to study different factors when allocating county resources, including "population, square miles of territory, and growth patterns."
Wright stated he supports an expansion of the current jail facility.
The winner of the primary will face Democratic candidate John Bomar in an Aug. 13 election.
A New Name. The River Spirit Expo is the new name for the Expo Center at the fairgrounds after a naming rights deal inked between fair board officials and River Spirit Casino.
The deal will pay the county $20,000 monthly, with the first payment due June 15 and the contract set for one year. Notably, the casino has the option "to renew this Agreement for four (4) successive one (1) year terms by giving the Authority three months' notice prior to the expiration of the current term."
For years, the facility was known as the QuikTrip Expo Center, with the company paying about $230,000 annually.
Then, last year, the fair board shook things up -- and seemingly lost leverage after failing to properly vet prior obligations before approving a complex deal with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
Changes began in May 2012, when the board declined to renew a deal with the Friends of the Fairgrounds community group to have them seek out naming rights agreements.
Then, according to Commissioner Fred Perry's statement in December, QuikTrip decided in the summer that it didn't want to continue its naming rights deal.
The fair board and the Creeks announced in November a $1.44 million yearly naming rights deal that involved the ceasing of live horse racing at Fair Meadows. But county officials then said they had mistakenly overlooked agreements with two horse associations to have racing in 2013.
The American, Coming Soon? The statue has a name, The American, and impressive specs at a proposed height of more than 200 feet.
Now, the Sand Springs City Council could send a clear message about where the project might be built. City Manager Rocky Rogers said a vote could happen June 10 or June 24 to fund infrastructure needed to accompany a statue site.
"We're waiting on dollar numbers from the project managers," Rogers said. He added: "If it's $3 million ... I don't see us being able to do the whole $3 million. If it's $1 million or $2 million, there's that possibility."
The money would go toward roads and sewer lines for a site north of Sand Springs.
The city will not pay to build the statue, Rogers said, with private investors shouldering that expense. The statue shows an American Indian man standing, an eagle on his outstretched arm. It's not meant to represent any particular tribe, Rogers said.
With the recent damage, destruction and death caused by tornadoes and wind, Rogers added that preliminary wind tests have been done that have determined the project, as designed, could withstand an F-4 tornado, which involves winds up to 260 miles per hour.
Should the council vote to approve infrastructure improvements, Rogers said statue construction could begin in the spring of next year. Construction time is expected to be 30 months, Rogers said.
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