Thursday, April 13, 2006

Tip Toe Through the Mine Field

By winning the election on April 4th and being sworn in as Tulsa’s 38th mayor on Monday, Kathy Taylor has won the right to wander into a political minefield, not as of yet, of her making.

Some of the mines are clearly marked and should be easy to negotiate around, even for a City Hall neophyte; these include the Third Penny vote and the FY 2007 budget. However, there are some smaller, not so clearly marked mines, lying just inside the perimeter that, if she does not tread carefully, might blast off a large part of the goodwill she is going to need during the early months of her administration.

One such landmine, deals with the Tulsa Airport Improvements Trust (TAIT) board, and what to do with current board member Ron Turner. Gen. Turner’s term of office is up at the end of April, and he desperately wants to be reappointed. Among his biggest supporters for reappointment are current TAIT board member Meredith Siegfried (Turner is a family friend and a former NORDAM board member), current city councilor Bill Christiansen (who recommended Turner to Bill LaFortune) and much of the professional staff at the airport.

However, Turner is very unpopular in many circles. The residents of the neighborhoods near the airport see Turner as dismissive of their concerns regarding the federal noise abatement program that is overseen by TAIT. The South Tulsa Citizens Coalition (a.k.a. “the Bridge People”) are wary of Turner, given his unabashed support Cinnabar, who was the chief contractor for the noise abatement program until they were run off by the two reform minded board members (Carl Clay and Charles Sublett) that Mayor LaFortune appointed. Why would Cinnabar concern the STCC? Because the ownership of Cinnabar and Infrastructure Ventures Inc, which is trying to build the Bixby toll bridge, are virtually identical.

Turner is also unpopular with most of the non-commercial tenants on the east-side of Jones Riverside Airport. This rather influential group, which by definition consists mainly of private individuals who can afford to own and hanger a private aircraft, were the chief force behind Cliff Magee’s closer than expected challenge to Bill Christiansen.

Mayor Taylor is likely to be heavily lobbied to return Gen. Turner to the TAIT board. If she wants to prolong her “honeymoon,” she’ll ignore the lamentations of Turner’s fans, and announce a new member.

Turner’s reappointment is guaranteed to receive Council opposition. It is a guarantee that Jack Henderson and Roscoe Turner (no relation) will vote against a renomination of Gen.. Turner, should Taylor reappoint him. It is likely, but not a guarantee, that Bill Christiansen would recuse himself on such a vote, leaving only eight councilors to decide. A six-to-two renomination wouldn’t be too embarrassing for the new mayor.

However, what if two of the new breed of reformist councilors also sign on? It is quite likely that Maria Barnes, Rick Westcott and John Eagleton could vote “no.” That would be a disaster for Taylor, who ran on a pledge to unite the Council.

Taylor’s alternative would be to lobby the swing councilors to support a reappointment of Gen. Turner. It is widely expected that Taylor will be more like fellow Democrat and Henry cabinet member, Susan Savage, when it comes to cracking the whip with rogue councilors. But the question she and her new staff is going to have to address is a simple one. Is a renomination of a very controversial and arguably ineffective Airport Board member worth the loss of political capital, this early in the game?

This one should be an interesting appointment to watch. Or rather listen to…for the sound of that first political landmine exploding.


Paul Tay said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Paul Tay said...

Wait jest a doggone minute. Didn't da Boss Dudette buy Henderson with some campaign cash to go up against Jabar as a body blow for his support of Cork? I heard Jabar caved in da end. But, she owes Jackie one. Maybe da Jimbo/Sully combo could buy him with da Race Riot Memorial earmark. Then, again, is Jackie worth da price? Maybe not, but then again, North Tulsa is always good to have in yer pocket, at whatever price.

One of da minefields you might also comment on is da competing interests between two of her endorsers, FOP and North Tulsa. Bill had da same endorses. Imagine my surprise when da FOP slam dunk letter of 11 December 2002 landed in my inbox.