Sunday, May 07, 2006

Cheers and Jeers I

Cheer: Kudos to Mayor Kathy Taylor for her selfless (but let's be honest, mostly symbolic) decision not to collect her $105,000 salary. Despite the fact she has her own jet and lives in a house that costs more than the homes of my immediate and extended families combined, it is a nice gesture.

Jeer: A great big "Boo-Hiss" for Tulsa World writer P. J. Lassek for her work in reporting Mayor Taylor's decsion to forego her salary. Not content with trying to score PR points for the new mayor with her legitimate action to save taxpayer dollars, Lassek decided to attempt to sell the fact that Taylor is better than previous mayors, because of the way she communicates with city employees.

This may or may not be true. However, Lassek chose City Council aide Cheral Crossland for several quotes to make the point. Here's how Lassek's work appeared in print.

"Several city employees contacted by the Tulsa World on Saturday said they thought the e-mail was a positive gesture by the new mayor.

"City Council aide Cheral Crossland said she was impressed and the news was more sincere because it was released quietly to the employees.

"To me, she's really doing the job because I think she wants to make a difference," Crossland said.

She said Taylor may be the first mayor who regularly communicates with the employees. "Before there was no communication, we always had to read what was going on in the newspaper," Crossland said.
On the surface, this seems innocuous enough, right? But what pushes these paragraphs to the edge of "Propaganda Canyon" are the facts that Lassek doesn't share with the reader.

First, Lassek doesn't tell you that Cheral Crossland's husband is a major player in the Public Works Department. Dan Crossland is Tulsa's Street Maintenance Manager, making him one of Charles Hardt's top lieutenants. Given that both halves of this double-income family derive their salaries from the city, is it any wonder that Ms. Crossland is willing to gush?

Secondly, Ms. Crossland is a friend of Ms. Lassek's. More than once, I've had to turn around during committee meetings to give the pair a "do you mind" stare, because they were so vociferously chatting behind me. Ms. Lassek is also a frequent visitor to Ms. Crossland's office, (the most tucked away and hidden office on the second floor of City Hall).

Thirdly, and perhaps most significantly, Ms. Crossland spent the previous four years as the Council aide to two councilors who have just this year left the Council. Who you ask? Why none other than former District 4 Councilor Tom Baker and former District 9 Councilor Susan Neal. "BakerNeal," as they were known to the Gang of Four (because they almost NEVER voted differently) are of course the latest acquisitions by Team Taylor. In fact, it appears the two occupy her top two staff positions.

For those that need a refresher, "propaganda" is defined as, "The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause."

When a reporter uses a personal friend who is very closely tied to a new mayor's top aides, and who has a vested interest via her job, to "propogate" information advocating the efficacy of an elected official who is a close friend and neighbor of the publisher of that reporter's newspaper and employer, then I'd say a reasonable argument can be made that this definition has been met.

Don't you think?

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