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In an article published in Urban Tulsa Weekly a couple of weeks ago, Mayor Bartlett attempted to defend his implementation of Tulsa’s Comprehensive Plan and his support of the Vision 2 tax proposal. In doing so, he took a few liberties in suggesting that my criticisms of his performance were based upon incorrect or untrue facts and false representations. Since he failed to specify what was falsely represented or which facts were untrue it is difficult to respond specifically to his accusations.

However, speaking of facts, here are a few that are related to the Mayors track record of implementing the comprehensive plan that might be worth checking out if you feel so inclined.

Fact #1 – When it comes to PlaniTulsa the Mayor has been sending mixed messages about his stand since before he took office.

For starters, he did not participate in PlaniTulsa. PlaniTulsa was conceived to update Tulsa’s 30 year old comprehensive plan. It was the single largest and most important planning effort in our history. Thousands of Tulsans participated in various phases of this massive effort, but Dewey Bartlett was not among them, apparently too busy to get involved. From what I understand he did not attend any of the workshops or meetings and did not offer any input whatsoever, including his one appearance at a Citizens Planning Team meeting which was a campaign stop I took him to. That’s a fact!

Fact #2 – During the Mayoral Campaign the Mayor was talking out both sides of his mouth.

Dewey Bartlett the candidate repeatedly pledged his strong support for PlaniTulsa to its leaders and supporters. But to others he was expressing skepticism at the same time. Not long before his election, the Mayor participated in a candidate forum with his opponent which was broadcast live on a local radio station.

During the debate, Bartlett expressed concern that the direction of the PlaniTulsa process sounded a bit like “Big Brother” to him. He went on to suggest that he did not think Tulsa needed a “fancy European style transportation system” referring to plans for a more balanced approach to transportation including better options for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users. That’s a fact!

Fact #3 – The Mayor boasts of hiring a Planning Director but there is more to the story.

The Mayor assumed office in December of 2009. He was about to inherit one of best presents any Mayor could ever hope for, an exciting new Comprehensive Plan that was soon to be adopted. During his campaign he had been repeatedly briefed about the critical importance of hiring a Planning Director to insure the success of the new plan.

Mayor Kathy Taylor, who championed PlaniTulsa, thought the Planning Director position was so important that she graciously deferred naming one so the new Mayor could make his own choice. At the very least the Mayor could have appointed an interim Planning Director from among talented staff members already on the payroll.

Nevertheless, knowing how critically important a Planning Director would be to insure a successful comprehensive plan implementation, the Mayor proposed in February and March of 2010 that the Planning Director position be eliminated as part of his budget cuts. In April of 2010 the Mayor proposed the FY 2010-11 budget for the City of Tulsa which included the elimination of the Planning Director position as well as additional cuts to the Planning Department’s budget.

It was not until August of 2010 when the City Council prioritized the hiring of a Planning Director during Committee Meetings that progress finally began to take shape. The Bartlett Administration initially proposed only partial-year funding for the Planning Director, further delaying the process. The idea was rejected by the Council who believed a permanent source of funding for the position was essential in order to hire a qualified candidate seeking secure employment.

In spite of how important the Planning Directory position would be…the Mayor was half way through his four year term before he hired one. And, the real initiative to hire a Planning Director came from the City Council, not the Mayor. That’s a fact!

Fact #4 – The Mayor boasts about hiring a consultant to update the zoning code but there is more to the story.

PlaniTulsa and the subsequently adopted Comprehensive Plan recognized the need to update Tulsa’s zoning code to provide the necessary tools needed to implement the new plan. The Mayor was well aware of this matter throughout his Mayoral campaign, having been briefed almost daily on the progress of PlaniTulsa.

Not only did the Mayor drag his feet on this critically important step, he appointed several of the new comp plan’s most vociferous critics to participate on an advisory committee to oversee the consultant selection process, hardly the actions you would expect from an enthusiastic supporter of the plan. I’m not talking about casual opposition to the plan, but people who continue to this day to vigorously and aggressively oppose at every turn its most basic philosophical approach to land use policies.

The Comprehensive Plan became adopted public policy in July of 2010. Yet even with all of the advance notice, it appears that zoning code update will not be available until after the Mayor has been in office for over three years. That’s a telling if not downright dreadful fact!

Fact #5 – The Mayor boasts about the progress of three small area plans which are underway but there is more to the story.

Most everyone agrees that small area plans are the backbone of PLANiTULSA and the new comprehensive plan. But the three plans underway are not the result of but in spite of the Mayors lack of leadership. It was only through the tireless and unrelenting efforts of Bob Sober, the former Chairman of the PlaniTulsa’s Citizens Planning Team… working with the previous City Council that these plans got off the ground.

Even after the Council approved funding for these plans, the Mayor stalled the process until the last hour before authorizing expenditure of the money. Even then the Mayor ignored requests to hire experienced consultants or to ramp up the City’s Planning Department staff with permanent full timers to execute these plans in a timely fashion. He chose instead to hire temporary contract workers who receive no benefits and have no job security beyond their contract period. If you really believe in something you put your money where your mouth is. In short, the Mayor has not and is not investing in permanent solutions to our Planning Department staff needs. That’s a fact!

I could go on and on detailing the failures of this administration in providing true leadership in implementing our comprehensive plan. The Mayor’s track record has been well documented and can be checked out by anyone who is interested enough to make the effort. And don’t forget that it’s not just Bill Leighty who is and has been critical of the Mayor. Many members of the past and present City Council as well as leaders and supporters of PlaniTulsa have also publically expressed their frustrations with the Mayors performance. That’s a fact!

Published in Urban Tulsa Weekly September 12, 2012

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