The City Council meeting Thursday featured all nine councilors joined by Mayor Dewey Bartlett, Finance Director Michael Kier, Dwain Midget of the Mayor’s office amongst others from the City’s Public Works and Planning Departments.
The first item for discussion was the appointment of Eugene Edwards for TMAPC (Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission) to replace Phil Marshal. John Hoffines (a private citizen) spoke in support of both Edwards and Marshal. Edwards thanked the Councilors and those on the Commission for their trust and belief in him.
Mayor Bartlett presented a group of students from Bishop Kelley for their outstanding work at the school, of which he was a former student. The Mayor went on to remind the public about an updated meeting for the discussion of the “DownTown Master Plan” as apart of another session for PlaniTulsa being held on July 21st. The Mayor called PlaniTulsa an “all encompassing plan for the future growth of our city.” According to the Mayor, the plan has three points; revitalization of downtown; connecting downtown to the River Parks; and expanding the railway from downtown to the growing centers of urban activity.
Mayor Bartlett went on to report that the City would re-instate fifty laid off police officers. Again, many of those in attendance were noticeably pleased with the report while the Councilors were silent and visibly perturbed. Finally, the Mayor concluded his time by laying out the expectations of having only one police helicopter for now while “being prudent” about the cost of the second one requested by the Police Department.
Before leaving, the Mayor answered a question by Councilor Bill Christiansen to address the myriad of complaints about the City’s recycling program. Councilor Christiansen described it as “really, really, really, bad”. Mayor Bartlett agreed and even said it was even worse. The Mayor said that the company Red River Waste Solutions (RRWS) had been given an ultimatum this week to clean up their act in the next two weeks or “all available options” could be used to gratify the City; including breach of contract.
Councilor Christiansen asked about what would happen if the City dismissed RRWS. The Mayor responded by saying another bid process would have to take place and service would be suspended in the interim. Councilor John Eagleton added that because the public is paying for a service that they are not getting, he would like to see some sort of discount or credit or refund. The Mayor agreed and said that credits for service would be an option if RRWS left. The Mayor then left the meeting.
Three issues dominated the rest of the meeting. The recycling issue came up several more times. Councilor Christiansen grilled members of the Public Works department saying the recycling program under RRWS went from “bad to worse.” Two other Councilors Bynum and Turner also had their turn in asking questions like “there are people who already do this every day why can’t we have them drive the routes.”
The Council is greatly concerned with complaints about missing pickups; in both gated and regular residential areas; lack of skilled drivers for routes; and overall poor performance in the timely removal of recycled materials.
Certainly not least was the budget amendment appropriating two-hundred thousand dollars out of the General Fund from the City for two more Human Rights personnel, two more parking meter enforcement officers, and one $100,000 Retail Development Specialist position was decided.
Councilor GT Bynum expressed concern about funding positions by a one-time sale of land. Councilor Bynum said the positions were good uses of funds; however, he could not support creation of them with a one-time sale without regard to the future funding. Councilor Henderson in a display of “buy now pay later” dissented, saying, “We got the check…we need to fund it [positions]…down the road we can look for how to fund it [referring to future funds].” None of the other Councilors were against the measure, so it passed 8 to 1 (Bynum).
Several of the items on the agenda moved to next Thursday, to allow the public more time to read about them. One of these items was the proposal to have the citizens of Tulsa vote on having primaries for Independents in the same fashion as established political parties. Currently an independent candidate needs 3,600 signatures on the ballot; and this vote would remove that requirement.