POSTED ON OCTOBER 29, 2008:
Setting the Record Straight
(In response to Michael Bates' editorial, "Out with the Old," in the October 23-29 issue of UTW)
In the most recent issue of Urban Tulsa, Michael Bates endorsed Sally Bell for Tulsa County Commissioner. In doing so, he made numerous accusations about my campaign and me that have no factual basis of any kind. Consider the following:
1) He engaged in an absurd attempt to compare my approach to County government to that of the defeated incumbent, Randi Miller. Aside from his blatant partisan political motivation for doing so, it is impossible to comprehend any conceivable factual basis for Mr. Bates' comments. Please consider the following:
a) Prior to the Republican primary, the record was clear that there were problems with Ms. Miller's work ethic and attendance at critical meetings. In sharp contrast, I have no such record - whether in a career as a TV journalist, reporter and anchor or during my service to this City as an aide to former Mayor Bill La Fortune. My 31-year work history has never been questioned in either the private or public sector. Mr. Bates' attempted analogy to portray me as a slacker cannot stand up to scrutiny.
b) Prior to the Republican primary, there were complaints that Ms. Miller was engaging in the business of the County "behind closed doors" in violation of the Open Records Act. When I launched my campaign - months before Ms. Bell even entered the race - I identified transparency and openness in government as one of my principal objectives. I spoke about it at every public opportunity and it has been included in all of my literature from the very beginning of the campaign. Again, Mr. Bates' ignores the facts.
c) Prior to the Republican primary, there were allegations that Ms. Miller had engaged in decision-making based upon insider dealings or contributions to her campaign. Nothing in my background or record could conceivably support any similar allegation.
d) Mr. Bates noted that at least one of Ms. Bell's priorities was "reducing waste and mismanagement throughout county government..." Presumably, this idea is to be contrasted with Randi Miller's record. Again, months before Ms. Bell even announced her candidacy, I had already identified as one of my goals to streamline services and combine resources (such as parks maintenance) between governments in Tulsa County to maximize YOUR tax dollars. Again, Mr. Bates' attempted analogy simply cannot stand up to scrutiny.
2) Mr. Bates states "Keith's sole claim to county government experience is her service as a spokesperson for the 2003 Vision 2025 sales tax campaign. Keith's vision for county government appears to be repeating Vision 2025--putting another county sales tax for amenities (not necessities) before the voters."
To begin with, nothing in my literature or in my public statements supports the assertion that I claim to have been a "spokesperson" for Vision 2025. Rather I have stated that I was "part of the team working for passage of Vision 2025." After the successful campaign, I worked on the Arena and Convention Center Design Committee, as well as the Vision 2025 Downtown Housing Fund Committee. Clearly, I was more than a mere "spokesperson."
Secondly, my involvement in Vision 2025 has not been my only experience with county government. Throughout my campaign, I have spoken about my extensive experience working with government officials throughout the county on many issues and in connection with a number of projects.
Thirdly, my experience stands in sharp contrast to the total lack of any experience that Ms. Bell has had in public service at any level.
Finally, Mr. Bates has no conceivable basis for the now published fiction that I intend to put to the voters some mythical tax for "amenities." There is nothing in my literature or public statements to support the proposition that I intend to propose such a tax. This is nothing more than Mr. Bates' attempt to unfairly label me as a pro-tax candidate. There are simply no facts to support such a claim. What I have stated publicly is my desire to become an advocate for the County in securing a return of a greater share of our tax dollars that have historically gone to other cities and counties throughout the state. We are a "donor county" and I want to do something about that.
3) Mr. Bates references my endorsement by Bob Dick, a former Republican County Commissioner and then engages in an attack on Mr. Dick using catch phrases like "Dick's machine" or "Bob Dick style empire building." It is again almost impossible to determine the factual basis for these attacks. However, more importantly, Mr. Bates completely misses the real significance of Mr. Dick's endorsement. Throughout my public career, I have been able to cross party lines and engage in bi-partisan discussions and work with various and disparate groups for a common good.
Blind partisanship, like that evidenced so clearly by Mr. Bates' comments, simply no longer works--at any level of government. People in Tulsa County are tired and frustrated with partisan bickering, which has caused and continues to cause long-term problems for this county and state. I have not only been endorsed by Mr. Dick but by numerous life-long Republican business and political leaders including former Mayor Robert La Fortune and Realtor Joe McGraw.
4) Mr. Bates stated that "Karen Keith's idea of having the county government act as some sort of metropolitan government service provider isn't likely to get off the ground." Nothing in my literature or public statements could conceivably support the notion that I have ever espoused the county becoming a "metropolitan service provider." I simply stated that there should be better cooperation between the various city and county governments to "maximize tax dollars." How does the idea of cooperation among elected officials at various levels of government translate into making the County a metropolitan service provider? It clearly does not, except in the chaotic and partisan mind of Mr. Bates.
5) Mr. Bates asserts that at the KRMG debate I engaged in an "awkward attack on Ms. Bell's business record." In fact, I clearly raised the issue of the Oklahoma Department of Labor's six-month investigation of Bells Amusement Park after the tragic death of a teenage boy in a ride accident. It is a matter of record that this report, written by a Republican Commissioner of Labor, cited Bells for 64 separate safety violations.
This investigation and its finding by a Republican Commissioner of Labor go to the heart of Ms. Bell's alleged qualifications to be a County Commissioner--her experience in managing Bells Amusement Park. Leaving aside for a minute the credibility of relating making payroll to actually managing a business, the findings of the State Department of Labor constitute a damaging and devastating critique of the "management" of Bells.
Ms. Bell's principal response was to state that the author of the report, State Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau, later recanted those findings.
Ms. Reneau has now come forward, in the midst of a campaign that does not involve her politically or personally in any manner, and categorically denied Ms. Bells' attempt at revisionist history. This episode reflects Ms. Bell's alleged expertise in "managing" a business.
6) Mr. Bates refers to my alleged "money belt allies." Who exactly are these so-called "money belt" allies? Aside from the fact that the tone of the phrase is demeaning and unprofessional, it utterly ignores the fact that I have raised money from people of both political parties, every conceivable occupation and socio-economic background. That is the essence of my campaign--I have reached out to the community as a whole, not to any political party or special interest. Mr. Bates' remarks are insulting to the hundreds of my supporters who do not consider themselves as "money belts."
It is a given that there will be differences and disagreements in any political race. However, to resort to misrepresentation and false rumors to promote one's ideas or support for a candidate is simply wrong. Mr. Bates, as his history indicates, would rather rely on catch phrases intended to evoke visceral responses as opposed to examining the facts and engaging in thoughtful and substantive discussion.
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