Dewey Barttlet, Jr. becomes
appropriate beginning. Recent reports of
city budgeting stupidities, corruption within the Public Works Department, city
police operating a military drug mafia, and the firefighters union illegally
campaigning for select city councilors – thus betraying democracy – suggest the
old joke may be truer than we knew.
The joke goes: “We have no organized crime in Tulsa. We have disorganized crime provided as a service by city government.”
Bada bing, bada boom.
First on the boring budget, know that “City government has 50 different
annual sources of revenue all of which shows either no growth or a
negative return from the last fiscal year” according to Terry A.
Simonson, Director of Development and Governmental Affairs for Tulsa
County. The city is broke while continuing to spend more than it earns
and this comes even after current-Mayor Kathy Taylor has raised every
fee and permit rate she could find.
City Councilor Bill Martinson said at last Thursday’s council meeting, “The economy didn’t create this problem. It’s an existing problem due to public safety unions holding the city hostage.” In short, he suggests that Democrat Mayor Taylor is protecting unions at the disadvantage of the taxpaying citizens of Tulsa. What a surprise. We wonder if ACORN and SEIU is feeling the love.
“Folks, we’re living in the land of Oz,” Martinson said. “I hope Tulsa’s flying monkeys realize that I’m not implying that someone dropped a house on the mayor’s sister, but parallels do abound.” He added that the police and fire budgets consume more than the total revenue generated this fiscal year by the 2-cent sales tax, the primary funding source for the city.
Councilor John Eagleton said the budget “train wreck was as predictable as the sunrise.”
Tulsa’s Public Works Department – a huge city budget consumer – does not require “change orders” when contractors exceed budget on city projects. Tulsa County government does, but the city does not. That allows individuals within Public Works to approve overages on their own authority, which recently led to a prison term thanks to a Federal investigation.
The newspaper’s Omer Gillham broke the news of another secret Federal grand jury investigation targeting the Tulsa Police Department’s (TPD) Special Investigations Division. In fewer words than Gillham used, police are alleged to be stealing drugs, money, guns, and other personal property using full-blow SWAT raids and individual officer intrusions into private homes.
If true, they are operating as a military styled mafia South American drug cartels would envy.
Tulsa Firefighters (IAFF Local 176) leading up to the November 10 election campaigned as representatives of the Tulsa firefighters union (with bright yellow t-shirts) – not private citizens – to remove city councilors critical of their budgets. They scared people at private homes with comments suggesting that “votes better go the right way or your house might burn down.” This verbal abuse, these lies, this intimidation enrages this editorial writer.
For years, Tulsa Today has known that our city is unique in the parity between firefighters and police. Most cities have far more police for obvious reasons. We extended grace to the Fire Department on that issue because we appreciate their good works, but those days are over.
Why does the Fire Department and Emergency Medical Service Authority (EMSA) both respond to every call. Just a few weeks ago, a drunk was sleeping on the sidewalk downtown and I called 911. The police could have sent one car to roust the wayward, but no, a huge fire truck and ambulance arrived – 4 or 5 public employees. I wonder how much that one call cost taxpayers?
Firefighters have falsified continuing education and certification attendance records. In September, Fire Chief Allen LaCroix admitted 16 firefighters could not account for their emergency medical training records. An engineer or attorney could not get away with that and neither should firefighters – lives depend on them.
So the Firefighters Union believes it is their right to swing elections so they can have a passive and compliant gaggle of city councilors approve their budget without regard to detail or oversight. Maybe the daily newspaper will not badger them on the subject, but Tulsa Today will continue to write about it and we are calling for a full audit and complete public disclosure. It’s time to “check their shorts” or short reports if you like.
Every individual firefighter and any union official guilty of election coercion should go to prison. The city councilors they supported must also recluse themselves from any vote on the Fire Department budget or any budget that includes a fire department allocation.
As for our new mayor Dewey Bartlett, Jr., one long-time city government observer suggested that, given the issues facing the city and the union stooges elected to the city council, he should refuse to take the job on mental health grounds – one would have to be a bit crazy to take that job.
Less cynically, I believe Mayor-elect Bartlett has an opportunity to truly and deeply repair the ongoing operation of the City of Tulsa, but it will take dramatic – if not traumatic change. All of Tulsa should wish him well, our community’s future depends on his success.
Tulsa is not corrupt. There is no grand conspiracy of evil. If there was I would have been found floating in the Arkansas River long ago.
Tulsa is just the victim of little stupid(s) of self-interest and institutional power which unlink sanity. There would be less stupid in public if the Tulsa Tribune (local afternoon newspaper closed in1992 to explain to our national readers) continued today, but Tulsa Today will stand in their stead as best we can online. Our readers help by sending this story to others and talking about it with friends. The "coin of the realm" within a democratic republic is an informed engaged citizenry, thus Tulsans get the local government they deserve.
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About the author:
David Arnett began a career in professional journalism in 1985 and
has published Tulsa Today since 1996 – online years before Al Gore invented the
Internet. He has won two national awards as a First Amendment
Publisher. Arnett is a Conservative Media Critic, Antiauthoritarian Conservative and a proud pain in the political derriere of
the disingenuous. This analysis may be reproduced without charge with
links to the original source. Arnett is
available for interview and speaking engagements.