Fairgrounds safety at issue in annexation

Wednesday, 04 April 2007
City, public, and media confusion over “security” and “law enforcement” at Expo Square, site of the Tulsa State Fair and many other events, may be hiding the most important public impact of the annexation question Tulsa City Councilors face this Thursday evening.  Expo Square has its own security force, but annexation will change law enforcement responsibility on the grounds.

Without a vote of the people, the Tulsa City Councilors may decide the issue Thursday or at any time in the future, but will Tulsans and visitors be safer during events at the most important, busiest event venue in the metropolitan area?

The root of the dispute is over city tax increases and costs; the Tulsa County Sheriff’s office stands to gain.  Once freed of the responsibly for the fairgrounds, Sheriff Stanley Glanz will be able to reallocate over 5 percent of his budget, allowing him to raise salaries and purchase equipment needed by his department.

Glanz is one term short of becoming the longest-serving sheriff in Tulsa County history, in a law enforcement career that has included 23 years of service as a Tulsa police officer.  First elected Sheriff in 1988, Glanz has been re-elected in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004.

Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz said, “Apparently there is some confusion over the terms ‘security’ and ‘law enforcement.’  Expo Square has its own security force headed by Mark Andres, Director, which handles all security for the Tulsa State Fair and for all events held at the fairgrounds.

“We handle the law enforcement side of incidents occurring at the fairgrounds.  Whenever a car is broken into or something is stolen, we go out and take reports on it.  If there is an accident on the grounds, we investigate those and all other law enforcement duties,” he said.

Glanz said, “During the Fair, we have a large presence that handles law enforcement – again, with Mark Andres’s team providing security.  I am not sure what his budget is, but I am sure it is more than $200,000 per year, given his staffing during the Fair and other special events.

“During the Fair, I will have from 150 to 200 officers – a lot of those people are reserve deputies who go out to provide a visible presence.  We believe in ‘community policing.’  We are there doing preventive patrols to stop unlawful activity such as robbery.  We saturate the parking lots and thus have very few stolen cars.  We have very few robberies.  We handle drunks and fights and general rowdy behavior.  We handle juvenile issues and missing kids.  We handle all law enforcement for events on the fairgrounds,” Glanz said.

“We don’t have that many big events, but at the circus, Chili Bowl, and most especially at the Tulsa State Fair, we are proud of our service to the community.”

Glanz stated emphatically, “If the fairgrounds are annexed by the City of Tulsa, the Tulsa Police Department (TPD) will have to provide law enforcement according to state law.

“Normally, I will spend 4 to 5 percent of my annual budget policing the Fair, but annexation will allow me to do other things with that money.  I would like to raise salaries to a level comparable to other law enforcement agencies in Tulsa County.  Broken Arrow, Sapulpa, Owasso, and TPD all make a lot more money than my deputies do, and I would first look at those monies to increase their salaries.  Other departments also have a lot of equipment that we do not and it could also provide my employees with a better working environment.

“Again, 4 to 5 percent of my budget is spent on the Tulsa State Fair alone, and annexation of the fairgrounds would give me more money to do many other things for the community,” Glanz said.

“It is just like when Sapulpa annexed Town West.  Prior to annexation, 1 to 2 percent of my budget was spent providing law enforcement for that area.  Without those responsibilities, it allowed resources to be allocated differently.

“I think Tulsa County has spent a lot of money on the fairgrounds and I believe it generates a lot of income for the entire region.  People talk about Tulsa County’s penny sales tax, but they should just stop and look at how we have worked together and cooperated to bring the best value to the people of Tulsa per dollar spent – both city and county,” Glanz asserted.

“Tulsa tried twice to build an arena in downtown Tulsa and could not get it done, but the entire County got together to package Vision 2025 to help the city accomplish their goal.  Yes, it is a county tax, but the city is the beneficiary and if I go out to Broken Arrow to buy a lure at the Bass Pro Shop, part of the money I spend goes to build an arena in downtown Tulsa.”

Glanz concluded, “If the City Council wants to do this, then it is their right to do so, but I believe the entire region will suffer if they annex the fairgrounds.  If we lose events at the fairgrounds, the city tax base will not increase – it will decrease.  They could hurt the largest economic driver in the City of Tulsa if they do this, but it is their decision.”

The Tulsa Police Department has often stated to Tulsa Today and to other media that they do not believe in “community policing” — and if they exit their police vehicle, they expect to arrest someone.

City Council Attorney Drew Rees was quoted on March 30 as saying, “If the area is annexed, the Police Department would patrol in the same manner it patrols other areas in the city, with or without an event.”

How well the Tulsa Police Department could respond, for example, to a call from the middle of the midway during the Tulsa State Fair, which draws over one million people, remains to be seen and the costs remain to be proven.  How quickly could they drive to the fairgrounds, get through heavy traffic and crowds to arrive on scene?

The question of public safety may be the overwhelming issue of annexation. The Tulsa City Council has invited public discussion on this topic at Thursday’s meeting, or you may reach your city councilor by e-mail and/or telephone at the following:

Jack Henderson dist1@tulsacouncil.org (596-1921)
Rick Westcott dist2@tulsacouncil.org (596-1922)
Roscoe Turner: dist3@tulsacouncil.org (596-1923)
Maria Barnes dist4@tulsacouncil.org (596-1924)
Bill Martinson (chairman) dist5@tulsacouncil.org (596-1925)
Dennis Troyer: dist6@tulsacouncil.org (596-1926)
John Eagleton: dist7@tulsacouncil.org (596-1927)
Bill Christensen: dist8@tulsacouncil.org (596-1928)
Cason Carter: dist9@tulsacouncil.org (596-1929).

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 04 April 2007 )