Analysis: Tuesday the City of Tulsa will vote to decide who will lead the city as mayor. The three top contenders are incumbent Mayor Dewey Bartlett, former-Mayor Kathy Taylor and former-City Councilor Bill Christiansen. All are well known and, from internal polls provided to Tulsa Today from multiple sources, voter support of each candidate is not moving much despite a barrage of direct mail and broadcast advertising.
Bartlett and Christiansen both interviewed with Tulsa Today and you may read those interviews for detail on their positions, click here for Mayor Dewey Bartlett and click here for former-Councilor Bill Christiansen.
Former-mayor Kathy Taylor, despite claims of transparency and openness, failed to respond to repeated requests for an interview. Taylor has focused on limited interviews, glittering generalities and paid public pronouncements. The joke during her term was a question of how many lawyers does a lawyer need to serve as Mayor of Tulsa? The answer for Taylor didn’t matter as the Oklahoma Supreme Court set aside Taylor’s payback of tax money to the Bank of Oklahoma for the Great Plains Airline debacle – so much for competent council.
Taylor brags, “We brought baseball downtown,” but fails to mention the imposition of the attendant tax on downtown businesses imposed without a vote. In short, she is the trophy wife Tulsa could never afford who left the office with a $10 million deficit. Taylor blames the economy – better than blaming Bush, but not by much.
Former-Councilor Bill Christiansen served for a decade, but was a yin-yang – the Chinese philosophy of interconnected seemingly opposite forces. In other words, he often agrees and disagrees on any particular topic. Christiansen promotes himself as a leader that listens and responds to all the people all the time. However personally charming; that is not leadership.
Both Taylor and Christiansen earned the support of public unions. Bartlett has no union support – at least from their union bosses, but many workers at City Hall respect his leadership.
The reason the city budget keeps growing is the many union contracts and required pension funding. City government is the largest employer in the city. How’s that for following Detroit? In his interview with Tulsa Today, Bartlett describes, during the first fiscal crisis, how he offered every department the freedom to choose reductions, create savings or suffer layoffs to meet a required reduction percentage in their budgets. Every department in the city except the police union made their own decisions on cuts. Police refused.
A former police union official speaking on background told this writer that police believed there were other areas the city should and could cut rather than police. What arrogance to assume they know more and deserve more than other functions of the city. Maybe citizens would believe police deserved special treatment if so many of their officers had not recently gone to prison. Where was the police union while their members were breaking the law?
Individual officers place their lives on the line for our common safety, but that doesn’t make them saints, financial experts, or knowledgeable outside their field of training. It is significant to note the police union is not endorsing a candidate this election cycle – a very good idea.
Firemen have endorsed Kathy Taylor again following the pattern in Tulsa for decades. Each successive administration promises one or the other of the big unions special favors and they rally the troops to elect that candidate. Thus, the budget grows regardless as taxpayers foot the bill. Bartlett refuses to compromise on principle with these special self-interests.
Taylor, on her campaign web site, announced “[M]y immediate priorities after taking office, focusing on three areas — mentoring, transparency, and public safety.” Think about that for a moment. While education is a wonderful thing for all citizens to focus on, it is not the job of the mayor to run the public schools or direct individual charity – maybe in Russia, but not in Tulsa thus mentoring is a feel-good-doesn’t-mean-squat objective for the whole city. Transparency, as mentioned above, is contradicted by her refusing to interview. So she intends to help us be a more safe community? Does that mean agreeing with New York Mayor Bloomberg on gun control – Taylor says not anymore. So will Taylor stop the crack-heads or meth-crazies? How exactly does she expect to accomplish more than ongoing efforts to date? It doesn’t really matter as Taylor has no credibility; just ambitions (think Washington D.C).
Your vote is your decision, but you might wonder why union influence is mentioned here prominently. There is a growing understanding that public unions in most large cities and many states are driving government into bankruptcy.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) opposed public unions writing, “The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.” (1937 to the National Federation of Federal Employees) Yes, public workers may demand fair treatment, wrote Roosevelt. But, “I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place” in the public sector. “A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government.”
Public employees do have a system called Civic Service or, to be more specific, the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act (established 1883) that stipulated government jobs should be awarded on the basis of merit and provided selection of employees by competitive exams and made it illegal to fire or demote government employees for political reasons and set other rules. It also created the United States Civil Service Commission and a process for termination that included an appeal process. In effect, Civil Service is a kind of union.
President John F. Kennedy authorized, by executive order, the establishment of public unions. Some say it was a pay-back for union support of his presidential campaign. Regardless, in Tulsa government employees have both Civil Service and public unions. Why?
Why does a union need a union if not to force temporary managers (elected officials) to agree to benefits the owners of the enterprise (taxpayers) may not fully review yet must fully fund in perpetuity?
Here is the other sad fact. Traditional media rely on police and firefighters for news tips and colorful compelling interviews and are unlikely to criticize them or their unions even when they go all obviously political and self-serving. This writer, publisher and former-radio talk show host may have lost his radio show for that reason – criticizing the Tulsa Police who were, at the time, acting no better than a drug cartel.
Tulsa Today will continue to write about this important issue and, we believe, it is one you should consider with every vote in every election until Oklahoma outlaws public unions. Or, have one of those nice long talks with your children to explain why generational grinding public poverty will never end as the price of government continues to climb higher on their backs.