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City Councilor G.T. Bynum and Mayor Dewey Bartlett appeared at a question-and-answer session Tuesday sponsored by the Republican Women’s Club of Tulsa County. Both are are running for mayor, and the primary is June 28. KEVIN CANFIELD/The Frontier


Mayor Dewey Bartlett is not buying what G.T. Bynum is selling.

A central tenet of Bynum’s campaign for mayor is that Tulsa has been resting on its laurels for too long and that it’s time for the city to get back to thinking big again, as it did in its glory days.

The city councilor made that point again Tuesday at a mayoral question-and-answer session sponsored by the Republican Women’s Club of Tulsa County.

“I am running … for one very simple reason: I feel like we have gone too long coasting on the accomplishments of the past. We have started focusing on competing with cities like Broken Arrow and Owasso and Oklahoma City instead of competing with cities like Austin and Denver and Chicago,” Bynum said. “That is where our focus should be.”

Speaking after the event, Bartlett dismissed Bynum’s remarks as “good for a campaign.”

“But let’s be realistic. We have spent a tremendous amount of time, very successfully, in attracting out-of-town and out-of-state companies to Tulsa,” Bartlett said.

The mayor pointed to Macy’s new fulfillment center just north of Tulsa and Verizon’s expanded presence in the city as two examples of how his leadership and business acumen helped attract new businesses to the area.

He also noted that he traveled to Japan to speak with officials from Mitsubishi. The company plans to install a massive, state-of-the-art turbine at the Grand River Dam Authority’s facility in Pryor that will create support jobs in Tulsa, Bartlett said.

“This is the type of outreach we have because we have relationships with all of these companies,” Bartlett said. “They understand the significance of having a mayor who is in the business community … that understands job creation and economic development.”

Any suggestion that he — or by extension the city — does not look to compete on the national stage is simply not true, Bartlett said.

“We do compete nationally and internationally,” Bartlett said. “Look at our success with Macy’s and Verizon.”

Tuesday’s event at Ti Amo Restaurant, 6024 S. Sheridan Ave., was the first time that Bartlett and Bynum have appeared together as mayoral candidates since they announced their intentions to run months ago. With two other candidates in the field — Paul Tay and Lawrence Kirkpatrick — the mayor’s race could be decided as early as the June 28 primary.

That’s just 11 weeks away, and Bynum seemed intent Tuesday on  drawing distinctions between himself and the man he hopes to replace.

He accused the mayor of not being involved in the day-to-day work that it takes to run a city.

“You should have a mayor that tells you what they are going to do and then goes out and does it,” Bynum said. “Not a mayor that is (just) happy to be there when good things happen.”

Asked after the event to expound on his remarks, Bynum said, “The mayor believes suggesting something and then waiting for other people to do it is leadership, and I think leaders get involved in the execution on making it happen.”

He added: “You can’t just be the mayor and take credit for things other people do .”

Bynum gave two examples — the public safety sales tax and the Tulsa Tech Aerospace Academy.

“The difference between when the mayor proposed that (public safety tax) three years ago and when it actually happened last week was that (City Councilor) Karen Gilbert stepped up and did the work to put a proposal together,” Bynum said. “She sat through week after week, month after month of task force meetings to put a proposal together.”

It was Tulsa Tech, not Bartlett, that did the work to make the aerospace academy for high school students a reality, Bynum said.

City Councilor and mayoral candidate G.T. Bynum speaks to the media Tuesday afternoon after a question-and-answer session sponsored by the Republican Women's Club of Tulsa County. The event was held at Ti Amo Restaurant ?? KEVIN CANFIELD/The Frontier

City Councilor and mayoral candidate G.T. Bynum speaks to the media Tuesday afternoon after a question-and-answer session sponsored by the Republican Women’s Club of Tulsa County.  KEVIN CANFIELD/The Frontier

On the subject of economic development, Bartlett pointed to the burgeoning downtown, new jobs at places like Macy’s and Verizon and his work to create the aerospace academy to provide job opportunities for high school students not interested in attending college.

The aerospace academy and other vo-tech programs “will provide an opportunity for career choices and filling that pipeline of need for the type of employees we need for the future,” Bartlett said.

“And it will grow, I guarantee it,” the mayor added.

Bynum praised the new aerospace academy — which Bartlett said has about 40 students — but said the city needs to think bigger when it comes to education.

“The aviation academy is a very nice thing, but that helps about 40 kids a year,” Bynum said. “We have to help a lot more kids if we are going to be the best city in the state to get an education.”

After the question-and-answer session, Bynum explained how the city could do that.

He said that as mayor he would use the city’s resources to help promote early childhood programs and the state’s Oklahoma Promise program that helps parents save for their children’s education.

On day one in office, Bynum said, he would convene a committee of educators from grade school through college — as well as community colleges and vo-tech officials — to develop a strategy for improving the city’s educational opportunities.

“There is so much more that we should be doing,” Bynum said. “That is my point. It is not to diminish the value of the aviation academy.”

Bartlett said that was exactly what Bynum was doing and that he owed the students in the academy, their parents and the people who worked with him to create the program an apology.

“He made fun of juniors in high school, students that have chosen a career in aviation,” Bartlett said. “It’s too bad that he has already gone negative on the campaign.”

Bartlett said Bynum does not understand the years of leg work, meetings and travel  — by him and local educators  — that went into putting the aerospace program together.

As for the academy itself and its 40 students, Bartlett compared it to bringing 40 new jobs to Tulsa and said he would take that any day of the week.

“Every company that I talk to in and around the city of Tulsa, in Oklahoma and elsewhere, I ask, ‘What can we do?’” Bartlett said. “To a company, they say: ‘We can’t find enough trained or trainable people.’ … What we are doing is filling that need.”

NOTE: The filing period for city municipal offices ends at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Under the city’s nonpartisan election rules, if one mayoral candidate were to receive more than 50 percent of the vote at the June 28 primary, that candidate would become the city’s next mayor and be sworn in in December. If that does not happen, the two candidates whose vote totals account for a majority of the votes cast move on the Nov. 8 general election.