Tulsans will go to the polls June 28 for the city’s nonpartisan mayoral primary.
That’s 10 weeks — and 10 Sundays — away. Beginning today — and for each of the next nine Sundays — incumbent Mayor Dewey Bartlett and his main challenger, City Councilor G.T. Bynum, will answer one question a week submitted by Tulsans.
We’re calling it “So You Want to be Mayor?”
If you would like to submit a question, email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s question was submitted by Daniel Regan, vice-president of Kanbar Properties and chairman of Tulsa’s Young Professionals.
Question: Tulsa, unfortunately, has a history of segregation that persists today through the way that our communities silo themselves. Distance creates fear, which leads to misunderstanding, which can have devastating consequences. What are your plans as mayor to bridge those divisions, ensure the inclusion of diversity at every level of government, and strengthen our community as a whole?
Mayor Bartlett’s Response:
We have proven, time and time again, that we are more than capable of coming together collectively. I have always worked, as your mayor, in moments of tension, and in moments of joy, to bring this city together.
Our Bridges of Faith program that touched Tulsa youth, mentoring programs in our schools, an improved transportation network, and visiting over 195 churches with my wife Victoria throughout all of Tulsa, are all examples of the initiatives I have taken, as your mayor, to bring this community together.
Unfortunately, Tulsa has a history of racial conflict, namely, the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921. These horrendous events created wounds in our community that continue to heal today.
However, because of our history, we understand just how devastating an event like this can be. We understand, as one unified Tulsa, that we can never allow something as traumatic as this to happen ever again.
April 6th of this year marked the four-year anniversary of the Good Friday shootings in north Tulsa, in which two men drove to north Tulsa and senselessly and maliciously shot five unarmed African-Americans, killing three. Our hearts broke together.
Instead of allowing violence and fear to envelop our community, we remembered our past. I immediately contacted local community leaders, and we came together, in solidarity, to mourn the loss of the victims of that day. Because we came together and understood the lessons of our past, we were able to act as the one Tulsa that we are.
I have to acknowledge and thank our men and women in uniform, who took major steps to ensure that everyone was safe in the tense days immediately following the events of that Friday. Our public safety forces worked relentlessly to make sure that all Tulsans felt protected in their community, as every Tulsan should.
We caught the shooters within 48 hours of the event and our fast response was undoubtedly a significant part of keeping the community together. Public safety has played a fundamental role in the positive direction of our city, and my hat is off to them. I’m thankful that we were able to bolster the police and fire forces, so that we can be better prepared for any challenges that we may face ahead.
Recently our community approved a dedicated source of revenue for transportation and transit improvements. It occurred through the successful passage of Vision, and it is only because we included operations funding in the package that this was able to be achieved.
I led the way for operations funding in Vision so that we had a balanced plan, because I know that building things without the ability to operate them would be worthless. I will be sure that this funding opportunity is used to connect our community in the future. Connectivity in our community will now be accelerated at a rapid pace as we utilize the dedicated transit and transportation funding to link Tulsa from north to south, east to west.
I’ve seen it work during my time on the City Council, a governing body designed to include people from all parts of town who have different life experiences, backgrounds, professions, etc.
That diverse mix of people — a microcosm of the larger city it represents — works so much better when we have a great challenge before us. When we had to pass the largest street improvement programs in Tulsa history or renew Vision or revise mayoral budget proposals to prioritize public safety, we were so focused on working together to achieve our goal that we didn’t have time to focus on our differences.
The different perspectives each of us brought to the table made the end result of that work greater and more representative of the city as a whole.
Tulsa has been here before. We are a city founded by Native Americans. We were the home to Black Wall Street. We have one of the most vibrant, entrepreneurial, and rapidly growing Hispanic communities in the country. And we didn’t become the Oil Capital of the World or the Birthplace of Aviation by hiding from the unknown. Instead, we embraced it and made a mark on history.
I want us return to return to that standard. My campaign reflects the way I will govern: focused on pulling Tulsans together to meet our greatest challenges instead of resorting to tearing other people down.
We do not care about a Tulsan’s political party or race or what part of town they live in today. If they want to help us make Tulsa the best place in Oklahoma to get an education, or if they want to help us modernize local government so we can focus on national competition, then we welcome them.
It is that coalition of Tulsans — diverse by outward appearance, but united in our ambitions — that will build a better Tulsa for the next generation.