Friday, December 31, 2004

Q: Why do you hate the suburbs?

A: Quite simply, I don’t hate the suburbs.

I don’t resent or envy them. In fact, if my positions with regard to the economic development efforts of the suburbs can be simply put, it would be to say that I admire their aggressive efforts to grow and benefit their respective communities.

What I have been advocating, is that Tulsa has arrived at a point in its municipal growth, that it can no longer thrive utilizing passive policies with regard to future economic development. Owasso has a little over 22,000 citizens, which is about half the size of the average Tulsa city council district.

Despite its diminutive stature in relation to a single Tulsa council district, Owasso has its own mayor, city council, city manager, economic development team, chamber of commerce, school system, police force and public works department. It takes little comparative effort to get all these respective groups to act in concert for the economic good of the City of Owasso.

The situation in Owasso is very much similar to the situations in Broken Arrow, Bixby, Jenks, Sand Springs, Glenpool, Sapulpa and Catoosa. With all of these communities acting in their own self interest, why is it suddenly so terrible that a handful of Tulsa city councilors begin asking the simple question, “why aren’t we using our city’s resources for the development of our own community, as aggressively as our suburban neighbors are using their resources?

When one thinks of Tulsa aggressively acting to compete with Owasso or Jenks, it understandably conjures up pictures of Goliath threatening little, helpless David. However, Tulsa’s population now makes up just under half of the total population of the Tulsa region. If one thinks of the suburbs as a collective population with far more economic development institutions working in competition against the future good of the core city, it is far easier to ask the question, “when will we open our eyes and realize that our future is going to be one of steady decline toward urban blight, if we don’t use our economies of scale and resources to protect our own future?”

Frequently Asked Questions.

Okay, I'm six pounds heavier and I've had to break out my jeans with the 36" waist, but the holidays are all but over and it's time to get blogging again.

I've been getting a lot of the same questions of late, so I thought, "Hey, why not begin trying to answer some of these 'frequently asked questions' in a 'Frequently Asked Questions' section of your web site?" No...really...people have been asking...or at least intimating...all of these things.

Since it takes quite some time to put all of these questions together into a single, cogent document, I'm going to use my blog to post drafts, which will ultimately be posted on my "legitimate" web site;

Above is my first post.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Man Bites Dog

My first major in college was Radio, Television and Film. Before Oklahoma State would let you take the fun courses (the one's dealing with radios, televisions and film), you had to take a newswriting course.

It had to be one of the first class sessions that the professor drug out the old chestnut, "Dog bites man...that's not news. Man bites dog! Now that's news."

Yesterday, rover was yelping as his owner chomped down hard and there was nary a word about it in the Tulsa World.

Whenever a press conference is held in which three groups as diverse as the Tulsa County Republican Party, the League of Women Voters and the local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. hold a joint press conference in support of the same ideal, you would think our paper of record would want to be there to cover such an historic confluence of organizations. But at 2PM yesterday, in the City Hall cafeteria, those three groups spoke to and answered questions from, all four local TV stations, KRMG, KFAQ and the Tulsa Beacon. Noticeably absent? The Tulsa World.

The subject of the press conference? Each groups different reasons for opposing the recall of Jim Mautino and myself.

Bias is often thought to be how you slant a story, but in this case, it was in deciding not to cover the story at all.

Why wasn't the World there? Each of us could come up with a slew of reasons, given a little prodding. However, the one that I think most likely lies at the heart of the fact that the Tulsa World is Tulsa's "newspaper of record."

It should be dawning on a lot of recall election supporters (which includes Mr. Lorton and his editorial scribes) that this ill conceived recall scheme is going to eventually fail. The best the Coalition for Responsible Government can hope for is a graceful way to fire their consultant, Jim Burdge, look for a graceful excuse to withdraw from the process (We still think these council maniacs are dangerous, but for the good of Tulsa and democracy....") and redistribute their donations before their contributors have to be outed publicly.

So, if recall is to eventually fail, it seems logical that the World is beginning to look not at what the current voters will be told, but what future voters will be told. There is an old adage in PR that if it didn't happen on TV, it didn't happen. When it comes to history, or at the very least, journalistic background during some future election, the newspaper is the first place one looks to find out what happened with regard to a particular issue.

By not covering the very respectable alliance in opposition to a "manufactured crisis" the World has been complicit in contriving, they leave little lasting evidence of the folly of this recall process.

Just one more reason to join me and mine by dropping your subscription.

"The Tulsa World...all the news that fits our agenda."

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Why the Library Package Failed

As anyone who has been keeping up with my blog knows, I have been consistently hard on the Tulsa World (although I don't spell it "Whirled" like Michael Bates does). However, today's issue does include a very informative graphic that shows where the library packaged faired well, and where it faired abysmally. See graphic here.

The most obvious thing that should jump out, at anyone viewing this graphic, is that the question did best in those precincts within a 5 minute drive of the proposed Grand Central Library. Conversely, it did worst in the outlying areas of the county where people who would find the library's location inconvenient at best, own large tracts of land that would be subject to higher property taxes.

What is most interesting to me as the duly elected representative of District 2, is that in only two of my 18 precincts, did the level of support reach the required 60% needed to pass the bond question. Does this mean that the voters of my district do not trust me and the city with the bond money? Or does it mean that my voters are less prone to raising taxes, which is why they elected someone like me, that is likewise loathe to raise taxes? You know how the World will spin it.

What is most intriguing to me is the synaptic leap and/or lapse that caused District 7 Councilor Randy Sullivan to opine:

"First, what happened at the polls was a resounding 'hell no' to bonds right now," he said.

"Second, I'm not sure that people are ready to to entrust us with a substantial amount of money, considering there's a recall under way."

Just exactly which "us" that my fellow councilor is referring to is difficult for me to discern. If he's talking about the city council, then someone needs to inform him that the Tulsa City/County Library system is a separate taxing body and that the council would have no direct oversight of how the monies would be spent. The only extent of our involvement with the question rejected by voters, would be in our approval or disapproval of future mayoral appointments to the library board. So how is the people's rejection of a bond proposal, outside of our locus of control, an indictment of "us?"

The World reported my response to Sullivan's assertion as follows:

"Medlock chided Sullivan for being more concerned about clearing the way for the recall than pursuing necessary infrastructure improvements.

'A delay would be a foolish miscalculation of the desires of the public,' he said."
What wasn't reported was my additional response of, "If Councilor Sullivan is truly concerned with the impact that a divisive recall process would have on the General Obligation Bond package, than I would call on him to use his considerable influence with those behind the recall in ending the recall immediately."

The bottom line is, it strains the bounds of logic to say that reasonable citizens voted against the library expansion because they don't trust a council comprised of Jim Mautino or Chris Medlock. One of the major complaints that we have received is that we have been too aggressive in our questioning of the city and county bureaucracies. Why would normally tax averse citizens vote against a tax package because the council contained two tax watch dogs?

It is more likely that, if the current make-up of the council entered into the voters calculus, they would be concerned by the presence of a councilor like Mr. Sullivan, who seems to think that we should never publicly question those that are spending our tax dollars.

The basic truth of the voters decision is that the current climate is one in which citizens know the difference between "wants" and "needs." The Grand Central Library and a new football stadium for the Jenks Trojans were "wants." The projects proposed in the upcoming G. O. Bond package are, with a few "trimmable" exceptions, "needs."

I am confident that the voters who voted "no" on the library, will vote a cautious "yes" on the G.O. Bonds. I am equally confident that in the next municipal elections, Tulsa's voters will continue the practice of electing councilors who watch the money like a hawk, rather than more members of Mr. Sullivan's laissez-faire class of councilors.

Monday, December 13, 2004

What's In It For Them? (Motives Behind Recall Effort)

Just like someone with a recently broken leg, I'm growing a little weary of answering the same question multiple times a day. However, instead of being asked, "What happened to you?" I'm getting the query, "Why are these guys trying to recall you?"

It is a very difficult question to answer, because aside from Ken Neal and the editorial staff of the Tulsa World, I've never been directly told the real reasons. All we've been given are some painfully vague and subjective accusations that have little bearing in reality. This leaves Jim Mautino and I to have to do a lot of speculation based on rumors.

What I've been able to surmise, however, is that the answer to, "Why are these guys trying to recall you?" depends on just which group of "guys" you're talking about. Let's see if we can break them down to no more than a handful of classifications.

I've determined that the recall proponents (a.k.a. The Coalition for Responsible Government) truly are a coalition of groups interested in Tulsa city government. The "responsible" tag seems to be definable as government that is responsible to them.

So who makes up this coalition? Well, my analysis is that the infamous "THEY" are elements of the Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP), the Metro Homebuilders Association and those who don't like the city council digging into the Great Plains/Airport fiasco. Sprinkle this group with some suburban land speculators, Tulsa World interests and those ticked off that there still isn't an F&M branch bank on the southwest corner of 71st & Harvard, and you're probably getting pretty close to the truth.

Before delving into the individual groups and analyzing their disdain for me and my fellow gang members, let me offer up a few names that have been conveyed to me as activists in this endeavor at...What...Recollection?

First there is former District 7 city councilor John Benjamin. If being a councilor makes me the Honorable Chris Medlock, than perhaps we should refer to Mr. Benjamin as the Formerly-Honorable John Benjamin. I've been told by multiple sources that I trust that Mr. Benjamin has been seen strutting before a breakfast group that meets each Friday morning at the Southern Hills Marriott, that he is responsible for the recall effort. I've even heard him quoted as saying something to the effect that he is "calling the shots." I know that Mr. Benjamin claims to have recruited current District 7 councilor, Randy Sullivan, while on a ski trip in Colorado. How do I know? He told me himself. Seems they were sipping cocktails in an outdoor spa, and Benjamin waited until the alcohol, steam and bubbles to pop the question. Most interesting of all, however, is that Mr. Benjamin no longer lives in the city of Tulsa. He now resides, with his wife Laura Benjamin, in Bixby.

Another name which was let slip by a fellow elected city official is that of Josh Fowler. Mr. Fowler is the director...or something similar...of the Metro Tulsa Home Builders Association. He is a frequent visitor to council committee meetings and was rumored to have "black balled" an endorsement for me from the Tulsa Real Estate Coalition during the last election. During questioning by TREC for its endorsement, Mr. Fowler did not hide his annoyance for my efforts in supporting the neighborhoods in the 71st & Harvard issue. He also showed a penchant for not getting his facts straight, when he said there wasn't an upscale residential use for that particular property. I directed him to a development less than a mile away, know as Esplanade, which sets on almost the same sized property, adjacent to an equally busy street (Lewis Ave.). But most interesting of all, just like Mr. Benjamin, Josh Fowler is a resident of Broken Arrow.

I will endeavor, as time permits, to address each of these groups and the issues surrounding them, in separate blogs.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

What a Difference a Decade Makes

I think I'm somewhat more mellow than I was ten years ago. My wife, Cheryl, tells me I'm more focussed and pro-active. My mom tells me I'm "cuter," but then, she's my mom.

Other than that, I'm pretty much the same Chris Medlock that I was on January 8th, 1994. So what has happened since the Tulsa World endorsed my election in a special election for the SH69 seat?

Maybe it was that I was considered the least conservative Repubican in a three-republican field. All I know is, I didn't win the race and I can't count on my fingers the number of people that told me in subsequent years that they were going to vote for me until I got "that Tulsa World endorsement."

I believe I'm more mellow, flattered Cheryl thinks I'm more focussed and hope I'm cuter (thanks Mom). I recognize ten years of life experience and reading has probably made me more conservative. and be amazed at the contrast of opinion about my opinions from our friends on the opinionated Opinion Page. On January 8, 1994, the World editorialists wrote in part:

"Of the three GOP candidates, Medlock is the clear choice. At 35, he is a well-educated marketing and research analyst for the T.D. Williamson Co.

He has impeccable party credentials, serving on the GOP county executive committee, the county leadership council and the state and county platform committees. Medlock also has served as a precinct chairman and is chairman of Mainstream Republicans."

They went on to say:

"Medlock, a graduate of Charles C. Mason High School here, earned a marketing degree from Northeastern State University at the University Center at Tulsa and then a master of business administration at the University of Tulsa. He is intimately acquainted with the need for adequate higher education facilities for Tulsa. He has been a staunch supporter of public school reform and new business development.

"He also will provide Tulsa with another strong voice against crime. Articulate and knowledgeable on legislative issues, Medlock is exactly the kind of young person Tulsans should be encouraging to enter the political arena. "

The voters in District 69 should have no hesitation in voting for Chris Medlock."

Hmmm...maybe its not ME that's changed.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

My Official Response to the Recall Petition

Councilor Jim Mautino and I are honored that you, our constituents, elected us as your voice in city government.

We both took an oath to be good stewards of your government. We further promised, during our campaigns, to ensure that Tulsa’s city government serves all Tulsans and not just a favored few.
We promised to serve you with integrity. By keeping these promises, we have angered many who have previously benefited financially from old practices.

We agree with Mayor LaFortune who said recall “hampers our effort to find real solutions to the problems facing” Tulsa.

We agree with the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Tulsa when they say this recall:

  • Would be a waste of time, energy and money.
  • Contains accusations in this petition that do not specify reasons for recall which are consistent with Oklahoma law.
  • Effectively disenfranchises you, the residents of District 2.
    Jim Mautino and I thank you for allowing us to serve you as Tulsa city councilors.

We promise to continue to work hard ensuring your business in city government is conducted with integrity.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Finally and Typically

The Tulsa World finally and typically addressed the very important stance by the League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Tulsa (LWVMT) calling for an end the destructive recall process being waged against Councilor Jim Mautino and me. (click on the story title above to view the World story in PDF format)

"Finally," because the World had over two weeks to address the issue and chose to print the story only after the City Clerk certified the recall petitions as valid. "Typically," because the World stuck to their usual tactic used against those they hope to smear, which is, "publish all allegations on the front page of the Sunday edition (with twice the normal readership) and bury anything that effectively challenges those allegations deep into the Saturday edition (the lowest readership).

In this case, they chose to inter the story on the inside backpage, with no mention or photograph of either Councilor Mautino or me. Even the smirkish photo they've been running of me of late might have stopped interested readers who have been following the story of late.

The headline sounds more fitting for the sports page than it does for the news section. The World editors even went to the special care of using a lower-case "L" so that even League members might not notice the story.

I have been told by a LWVMT member that some of the delay in the World's coverage of this story was due to their suspicion that the press release was a forgery. Aside from the obvious cynicism that this belief belies, anybody with the same eighth-grade education level that the World's style sheets call for, could figure out that a single phone call to a LWVMT officer could verify the authenticity of the document.

I will say that the content of the story itself is adequate in its balance. Some fairly strong statements by LWVMT president Mary Jo Neal are quoted. However, none of the very strong language of the press release itself is directly quoted.

Also, you have to go as far as the eigth paragraph of the story (should you have seen it in the first place) to get to the most powerful statement in the story, which was:

"Neal said a recall provision is an effective tool to remove elected officials, but it should require specific reasons for recall that are consistent with state law.

'This (recall effort) appears to be because a group of people don't like the way the councilors are voting,' she said. "

That statement goes right to the heart of the issue. Remember that the two gentlemen who offered up their names and reputations to front the Coalition for Responsible Government 2004 live in neither Councilor Mautino's, nor my council districts. We also know that many of the people behind the effort either live, or have substantial business interests, outside the city limits of Tulsa.

So on one hand we have the esteemed but anonymous members of CRG 2004 acting in a manner that, according to one of the most highly respected, non-partisan democratic institutions in the nation, is "inconsistent with the representative form of government." On the other hand, we have the Coalition for Responsible Government acting incredibly irresponsibly by trying to remove the duly elected representatives of a government of which they aren't even a constituent.

If these concerned and anonymous coalition members want to do Tulsa a service, they need to take a cue from the League and use their influence to help clean up Tulsa's "defective" charter. But unfortunately, their actions have been selfishly motivated from the start. If they were as interested in the betterment of our city as they seem to be in their own influence and financial gain, then the LWVMT wouldn't have had to take the historical action of taking a"stance on a political issue for the first time in decades. "

Thank you League of Women Voters.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Recall Still Alive

Well, our friends at the unbiased Tulsa World have yet to publish anything about the very strong statement of opposition to recall made by the much respected League of Women Voters. It's been almost a week and a half since the statement was released, and yet you would have to be a blog reader or a KFAQ listener to even be aware of this important fact.

Couple this with the fact that I was alerted by City Council staff that it was strongly rumored within City Hall that Councilor Mautino and I will be "served" by the City Clerk today (Thursday) with a notice of certification for the preliminary petition for recall that was circulated in October by the impenetrably murky Coalition for Responsible Government 2004 (CRG).

I have requested confirmation from City Clerk Mike Kier (who moonlights as the city's Chief Financial Officer AND as the Interim Airport Director) that they have been advised by the Interim City Attorney to not confirm that all of the signatures on the petition are from registered voters who live in my district, as called for in the City Charter.

The applicable language from the charter reads as follows:

"If the officer sought to be recalled was elected from an election district, a preliminary petition for recall of the elected officer must contain the signatures of qualified electors residing in the election district involved equal in number to ten percent (10%) of all those voting in that election district for the affected office in the preceding general election. Preliminary petitions for recall shall be filed with the City Clerk and shall state the reasons for the proposed recall in not more than two hundred (200) words so that the officer sought to be recalled may be informed of the grounds upon which recall is sought. No petition for recall shall include more than one (1) elected officer. The City Clerk shall serve a copy of the preliminary petition by personal service upon the officer sought to be recalled, who shall have five (5) days thereafter within which to file with the City Clerk an answer to the preliminary petition for recall in not more than two hundred (200) words. If such officer does not file an answer in the time specified, no answer of the officer shall appear upon the supporting petition."

It is difficult to understand how Mr. Kier can certify this first critical stage of the process, without certifying the fact of primary importance, which is, do the signatures come from District 2 voters. We know that CRG is headed by two gentlemen that are Tulsa residents, but don't live in either Districts 2 or 6. As such, I am stunned at the cavalier attitude that seems to permiate this process with regard to the residency of the participants.

In addition to this, I requested from our legal staff an unofficial opinion with regard to what many consider to be the incredibly vague and ambiguous language contained in the charter with regard to the term "preceding general election." I made this request prior to the filing of the preliminary petition by CRG. The document I got back from Drew Rees, the City Council's designated legal counsel, was rather lengthy, but agreed in principal that the language of the charter was vague as to whether or not the general election in question was the municipal election held last March, or the national general election held on November 2nd. The reason for clarification on this question is so important is, that if the November 2nd election was held to be the standard, then CRG only submitted approximately a quarter of the signatures needed for a preliminary petition.

I'm not a big fan of winning on technicalities. In fact, my preference is to get on to a vote as soon as possible so that I can clear my name. But I'm also a bit of a constitutional strict-constructionist. Therefore, I'm somewhat loathe to establish a precedent that other councilors might have to face in the near-future.

The most compelling argument that I have heard to support November 2nd as the election establishing the standard is, that the term "municipal election" was included in the recall language in the charter for the old City Commission form of government. That charter was replaced with the current Strong Mayor/City Council Charter. If the intent of the framers of the current charter was to always use the last municiple general election as the standard, then why did they remove very precise language stating such, for the extremely ambiguous language that we currently have.

Even if I weren't the target of the current recall effort, the policy wonk in me would have to agree with the League of Women Voters, when they stated:

"We also believe that the charter makes it much too easy for people, who do not even have to be constituents of a district, to initiate a recall for a councilor who is democratically elected to represent a district. -- this is clearly inconsistent with the representative form of government."

I also am encouraged by the League's willingness to proactively work to refine the current charter to clarify its recall language and to tighten the policy to be more compliant with current state law and the true intent of the recall process.

Make no mistake about it. The reasons listed on the preliminary petition are opinions based on our actions as councilors. They in no way imply that we have committed any misfeasance or malfeasance of office. In fact, Reasons 2 through 5 state clearly that they (whomever "they" is) are recalling us for our "statements and votes." Reason 1 is that we "circumvented the spirit" of fair and open debate.

Statements and votes are a matter of public policy differences. These are supposed to be important elements of any democratic republic. The time for the voters to call an elected official to task for statements and votes is during the regularly scheduled election.

Even if it were true that we had circumvented the spirit of fair and open debate (which it isn't) that is a far cry from a finding that we had violated the Open Meeting Act. I can assure you that all nine councilors are very careful to never meet in groups of more than four. "THEY" can't prove...and dare not even allege...that we have violated the law. Therefore, "THEY" reason that we have circumvented a spirit.

So...we have a very reasoned and cogent argument by a respected organization like the League of Women Voters who say that the continuation of this process will be damaging to city government. We have people who don't live in the districts in question initiating a recall. We have an administration that is taking a cavelier attitude with regard to its responsibilities in following up on its charter responsibilities to certify the preliminary petition. We have several legal minds reasoning that the standard of signatures needed is in serious question. And on top of it all, we have had none of this communicated to the public by our paper of record.

Let's hope everyone takes this process a little more serious as we go forward.