What does a Tulsa City Councilor do?

Monday, 31 March 2008
In an informal, man-on-the-street informational outing, 80% of those who agreed to respond in a Tulsa Today survey could not answer the headline question.  Even more telling was the fact that these Tulsans could not name their current City Councilor or in what district they resided.

And tomorrow Tuesday, April 1 (Fool’s Day and Tulsa’s Birthday) these people are expected to go to the polls and elect someone to represent them?

For a city, state or federal level government to really represent the wishes of the majority of people, that majority MUST participate.  That means spending a little time to review what has been broadcast in comparison to what was actually said, presented or voted on by the representative.  Oftentimes what’s out there is not what happened, with the information from media having been spun to the direction desired by the reporter, assignment editor or publisher.

So what does a City Councilor do?

According to the 1989 Amended Charter and Amendments, Article II,
“All legislative powers of the City of Tulsa, except for the rights of initiative and referendum reserved to the people of the City of Tulsa by Article XVIII, Section 4, of the Constitution of Oklahoma, shall be vested in and exercised by a Council composed of nine (9) Councilors elected by districts as provided in Article VI of this amended Charter.  The Council  shall exercise such other powers delegated to the Council by this amended Charter or delegated to the legislative body of a municipality by the Constitution or the laws of Oklahoma.”

Translated that essentially means that they make the laws for the City of Tulsa.  Additionally, the Council is expected to oversee the collection and allocation of money for personnel and materials to run the City and construction and maintenance of infrastructure.

Generally, members of the public only become involved with the City Council when there is an issue regarding their personal property or a perceived injustice caused by another entity, i.e., the City itself, a business or person wanting to do something that the citizen doesn’t want done.

But the time for citizen involvement should more reasonably happen at the polls, the time when the choice is made about who will make the decisions for or against that citizen’s point of view.

If the average Tulsan is unaware of what Council District they live in, how are they to know if the candidate has abided by the rule requiring residence in that district?  If a candidate “fudges” on that rule, what can be expected of their performance in office?

ImageOften the mainstream media makes an issue over where the finances come from for a candidate to run.  The assumption is that if the money comes from “special interest groups,” then the candidate will be more likely to vote in favor of those groups over the desires of less well-heeled constituents.  At a local level, the probability is even more likely.  Does the average citizen have the means to fight a large corporation?  Lawsuits are expensive.

The point here is that before you go to the polls on April 1, perhaps you should review what the candidates have proposed as their objectives during service in office.  Some places to learn about local candidates include:

   1. This site may help you determine what district you live in: http://maps.cityoftulsa.org/districtFinder/districtFinder.asp
   2. The Election Board site may help you determine where you should go to vote.  http://www.tulsacounty.org/electionboard.asp
   3. The League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Tulsa asks for comments from candidates on various topics, and has published the responses here http://lwvtulsa.fileave.com/CityCouncil.pdf

As for the candidates, if you live in District 1, 2, 5 or 7, your Councilor is already sitting on the Council.  Jack Henderson regained his seat at the primary, and Councilors Rick Westcott, Bill Martinson and John Eagleton had no opposition.

Council District 9 has no incumbent as Cason Carter has decided to try for a State Representative seat.  Those residents must determine whether G. T. Bynum (R), Philip Kates (D) or Paul Tay (I) will best represent them.

The remaining four districts will see incumbents seeking re-election.  If they have a campaign web site that we could find, the link is included.

In District 3, Roscoe Turner (D) runs once again against David Patrick, who has registered as an Independent for this campaign.

The District 4 race features Maria Barnes (D), the only woman currently running, challenged by Eric Gomez (R) who is making a second run for the seat.

To the east in District 6, Dennis Troyer (D) faces Kevin Boggs (R), and to the south in District 8, Councilor Bill Christiansen (R) is challenged by Democrat Austin Hansen.

In addition to Tulsa City Councilors, voters are also asked to determine if two proposed amendments should be made to the Tulsa City Charter.  The Charter is periodically changed to update policies and/or to bring the City of Tulsa more in line with State or Federal mandates.  Click here  for a link to the current Charter, published in 2006.

One proposed amendment is an effort to provide more time between the election and swearing in of a new mayor and/or City Councilors and their review and approval of the City’s next fiscal year budget by shifting City elections from the current spring even-numbered years to the fall in odd-number years.  This change would also help candidate campaign timing to move away from year-end holidays and allow more grassroots participation.

The second proposed Charter change addresses the issue of voters who are registered in one district and move to another prior to an election.  This amendment would give a grace period for only that election to cast ballots in the former district if voters move during the closed registration period.

Go to http://www.tulsacounty.org/, click Election Board on the bottom left, and then the Sample Ballot for April 1, 2008, to see what your ballot looks like.  Take the time to find out who you are really putting into an office that has so much impact on your day-to-day life.  Then take the few minutes on Tuesday, April 1, to make the trip to the polls to cast your vote for the person who you feel has your best interests in mind when they vote on City of Tulsa issues.

About the Author:
Karen is the owner of The KanDo™ Organization with her husband, W. David O’Brien, an Enrolled Agent tax accountant.  KanDo™ Virtual Administrative Services specializes in legal assistance, focusing on transcription and writing.  A third leg of the business is a mobile notary service.  Call 918-798-8908 for more information.

Last Updated ( Monday, 31 March 2008 )