Twan Jones, an involved city citizen has decided to run for Tulsa City Council District 1 challenging fourth term incumbent Jack Henderson, Democrat, in the primary. Twan met for an interview at a local café in the district called Sweet Lisa’s at 782 E. Pine.
Tulsa Today: Thank you for taking the time from your schedule to meet today. How are your policies in office going to differ from Mr. Henderson?
Jones: The major difference, I believe will be to try to include
all of the District and their issues and bring all the issues to the
table while representing the district at City Hall. The next difference
will be hosting more town hall meetings within the district; currently
we only have one once a quarter. The third difference will be attending
not-for-profit organizational meetings and also setting up meetings
with small business owners as well. This will help us engage on finding
out what type of help the community needs and what the local businesses
The major one; with which I currently work; is Sarah’s Residential Living. It deals mainly with the care of seniors. One of the major issues we are working on now with Senator Scott from House District 72 is trying to get more Medicaid to help seniors that are living in residential homes.
Tulsa Today: A popular topic in the news lately has been the government unions, specifically dealing with pensions and the lack of funding for them. FDR has wrote about how the government worker should not be allowed to unionize because they themselves are the members of the management (the citizenry) that they would be bargaining against and that political forces could infiltrate and corrupt the union against the very government they serve. Do you believe that unions have a place in government work?
Jones: I do. Often groups are overlooked and having representation is important. I think unions have a role in giving the working class that representation.
Tulsa Today: Doesn’t the Civil Service Commission fulfill the same need?
Jones: It doesn’t hurt in my opinion for people to have multiple groups to attach themselves to; as long as the people can have adequate representation.
Tulsa Today: Should the Unions have the ability to campaign against the elected officials that are essentially their management, such as the recent IAFF campaigns against a certain councilor?
Jones: I agree with Unions having their place, and not having bias towards a candidate. The Unions should encourage their membership to get involved in the political process and understand who the candidates are and allow the members to make their own choices. It is up to the leadership to encourage the members to educate themselves on the candidates and the issues. That way they can be an informed intelligent voter when the time comes.
Tulsa Today: Where does the Union member end and the Citizen begin?
Jones: I would have to say in Union meetings and the organizational structure is where is begins and when the meeting is over is where it ends. Once a member leaves the meeting, that person should be able to support the candidate he or she chooses.
Tulsa Today: The Human Rights Department has been reported as doing the same or similar jobs as the Civil Service Commission, the State Human Rights Department, the regional, and the Federal Human Rights Departments. Do you think the City of Tulsa needs a Human Rights Department?
Jones: I think the role of the Human Rights Department seems necessary on paper. However, when you look at the actions over the recent years, it’s hard to put a finger on what they have actually done here in Tulsa. Recently, they were instrumental in the contracts the minorities were receiving in the City. They have the report, and yet they have not acted on the report, so in theory I can see the need for the department, but when you look at measurable results it is hard to make an argument in their favor.
Tulsa Today: What specific issues have you disagreed with Councilor Henderson in the past? Is there anything he should have done differently in your view?
Jones: This is not about Councilor Henderson. This is about our district needing to progress itself forward. When I look back over the seven years that he has been in office, I see business and residents that have left our district.
Tulsa Today: Do you think Mr. Henderson could have prevented that?
Jones: I absolutely think he could have prevented that.
Tulsa Today: How?
Jones: By getting involved in the trenches. He is at the table when a lot of that money that passes through the City is directed and he understands where the money goes. He could have done more to challenge the City during the decision making process on where the money will be distributed. That would have played an instrumental role in saving and creating jobs.
Tulsa Today: How does a Councilor save or create jobs?
Jones: When you look at the CDBG opportunities that the City has and the TEDC, which affects small businesses and small business owners, these are two avenues in which a City Councilman can help save or create jobs.
Tulsa Today: What do you think about Project Schoolhouse where some schools are being shut down, and particularly what do you think about District 1 school closings?
Jones: Any time a school is closed in a neighborhood, it is akin to closing the neighborhood down completely. I never like to see any type of school closing in any neighborhood. However, now we have to build a stronger relationship with the school board members for our neighborhoods. These people can fill the opportunities to close the gaps that will now be present in our community.
Tulsa Today: This seems, according to the reports, that the problem is more of a funding issue than a representation issue. If there is a choice to be made when it comes to funding how should they handle that when there are more schools than there are funds to support?
Jones: I am definitely a person who supports the individuals elected to those positions and will let them make those decisions; as long as they can explain them to us. As far as suggestions on how it could work, if they brought them to me, I would evaluate them at that time. However, I do feel the representation is important is brining the information to the public and educating them on the process.
Tulsa Today: Is that something Councilor Henderson should be doing more?
Jones: No, that is not a Councilor’s job. It is definitely a school board job.
Tulsa Today: Do you support the Strong Mayor form of government or should we have a change in how our city government is now? If so, what would that be?
Jones: I support what we currently have in place. Any governmental model will have pros and cons. In order for our system of government to work it requires a City Council and Mayor on the same page and working toward moving our city forward to help the under developed communities allow the citizens to get work safely in their community.
Tulsa Today: Should Mayor Bartlett be ousted?
Jones: I haven’t seen any reason for him to be ousted. I don’t have all the information that the Councilors have, but I don’t see why we have to take such a drastic measure to remove him from office.
Tulsa Today: Why did you choose this year to run?
Jones: I think the time is right. The people have said they don’t appreciate the way the Council has conducted business since the Mayor has taken office. In the last 7 years, our district has really taken a turn for the worse. We have the highest violent crime rate in our district. We have the lowest life expectancy in our district. We have residents moving out and neighborhoods that want to re-align with different districts. I feel its time for the next generation to take its role in our district.
Tulsa Today: Do you think that Tulsa has an illegal immigration problem?
Jones: From what I have been able to see from the state bills that have been introduced and passed, if it is not currently a problem, the state foresees a problem.
Tulsa Today: How could a Councilor help with that?
Jones: By getting familiar with the families in the community and understanding their history. Getting to know their day-to-day process and if they are illegal, becoming familiar with those individuals.
Tulsa Today: What is the role of Council, or a Councilor? Should it change?
Jones: The role shouldn’t change. Their role is to represent their district when it comes to City government such as sanitation issues, making sure the budget is balanced, and making sure the Mayor carries out his or her role. The Council is a very unique organization and a very needed organization.
Tulsa Today: Do you support any kind of pay raise for the Councilors”
Jones: I think that is up to the people.
Tulsa Today: Would you support that to go to a vote of the people?
Jones: If the other council members felt the need to bring to a vote of the people, I would support it.
Tulsa Today: Do you support open-carry laws?
Jones: I do. It’s a constitutional right. The right to bear arms.
Tulsa Today: Do you think it would have an affect on crime? Would Tulsa become the Wild West?
Jones: It is up to society in how we react to open-carry laws. If we have an uneducated society, than yes it could turn into the Wild West. However, if we pay attention to the educational process and doing what is necessary to sustain families I think we’ll find that people will have a different attitude. Education is a huge piece of the puzzle for making open-carry work.
Tulsa Today: Do you support voter id reform that may include showing a state-issued id in order to get a voter registration card or to vote?
Jones: The only way I would support that is if it was proved that there was a large amount of voter fraud in the precincts were the id was required. I have to go back to the time in history when my ancestors were denied their right to vote based on not having an id. I don’t initially support it, but if there was evidence of fraud, I would take a second look at it.
Tulsa Today: How long have you been a citizen of Tulsa?
Jones: All my life. 39 years.
Tulsa Today: How long have you lived in District 1?
Jones: 39 years.
Tulsa Today: As we, among others, have reported Dr. Lana Turner-Addison is an example of an individual who has an enormous amount of influence without being elected. How do you feel about such an un-elected individual being able to affect so many in the community?
Jones: I would paraphrase the statement that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I would say that there needs to be a forum where the decisions can be challenged and questions asked with a possibility of a vote. When one person has the ability to make all the decisions it is hard to see what good could come of it.
Tulsa Today: Thank you again for your time today.
More information on Twan Jones can be found at www.twanjones.org.
About the author:
Aaron Sheppard is a long time believer in smaller government and responsible use of tax dollars. As a former City of Tulsa employee who worked in the Finance Department assisting in production of the Annual City Budget from 2001 to 2004, he experienced first hand the differences in what happens behind the scenes and what makes the news. He has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Phoenix and has worked in the private sector since 2004. Sheppard may be reached at email@example.com
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