Every Sunday between now and election day, 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 Laverne Stone, 75.
Question: What will you do to improve Tulsa’s relationship with its surrounding communities and ensure that everyone is working together for the betterment of the entire area?
City Councilor G.T. Bynum’s response:
The main reason I am running for mayor of Tulsa is to restore us to the focus on national competition that made Tulsa a great American city in the first place. A big part of restoring that focus is eliminating distractions that hurt us rather than help us.
For nearly a century, we focused on being world class – we focused on competing with cities like Austin and Denver and Chicago. But at some point we started coasting, we turned inward, and we started competing with cities like Owasso and Broken Arrow and Oklahoma City – our neighbors, who should be our allies in competing nationally.
As a city, we even started competing with Tulsa County. Having two governments largely elected by the same people constantly at odds reveals an obvious need for a change.
These fights are not taking place because you have bad people in office. They are occurring because we are working within an outdated system of governance. We are operating in an arrangement that was created over a century ago when Tulsa County was a rural county and the cities of Tulsa and Broken Arrow had a few thousand people combined and miles of farm land in between them.
Every week that the mayor and county commissioners are fighting is a week that some other city is landing jobs that should have come to Tulsa or making improvements to their city that make them more competitive. It is a fight that is distracting us from the real competition in the 21st century at the national and international level.
I will work with the leaders Tulsans elect at Tulsa County, and with our neighbors in the suburbs, to modernize local government so we can get back to the focus that built Tulsa up in the first place. We will go through all functions of government and identify who can best provide each of those services in the 21st century – and then we will move forward together.
Such an approach takes hard work and it takes trust. I have developed an excellent working relationship with regional leaders – and our county commissioners in particular – through my leadership on the Improve Our Tulsa and Vision programs. We didn’t fight for years on end. Instead, we worked together to find win-win solutions in both cases that allowed us to improve local infrastructure, strengthen public safety, and enhance local economic development.
Modernizing local government is not an easy solution to the fights that plague us. If it were easy, someone would have already done it. But it is incredibly important. And I do not believe someone should seek an office as important as mayor of Tulsa unless they are willing to work toward big goals that will set us on a long-term course for success. There are few changes we can make in the near term that will have greater long term benefits.
I hope Tulsans will join our growing coalition to help bring about this necessary improvement.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett’s response:
As mayor of Tulsa, I am thankful that we have built successful relationships with the mayors and city councils in the area.
I firmly believe that Tulsa and the cities surrounding Tulsa are stronger today than they were six years ago. This didn’t happen by accident. One of my administration’s top priorities has been to reach out to our neighboring cities and suburbs to find ways to work together to deliver essential services like street improvements, public safety and water distribution.
Our collaboration created a solution to mutual problems on a number of occasions. For example, we worked in conjunction with the city of Bixby to maintain south Memorial Drive, where we share boundaries. Both of our communities need safe and well-maintained streets, so we came together and developed a plan to successfully achieve that goal.
Fire protection is as critical in Tulsa as it is in Broken Arrow. In recent decades, both cities have seen tremendous growth and border one another in east Tulsa. To facilitate this new-found growth, we created a mutual-aid agreement so that the Tulsa Fire Department will assist Broken Arrow in times of need and, similarly, Broken Arrow’s Fire Department will assist Tulsa in times of need.
We do this in other places, too, such as Berryhill, because it’s the right thing to do for our region and neighbors. It just makes sense. These mutual-aid fire agreements make our cities safer and bring down insurance costs for residents on both sides of the city boundary.
In 2015, we took our spirit of collaboration to a new level. We thoughtfully looked at opportunities in the area and quickly realized that we all had similar priorities.
I called together every city in the county and we began to have meetings to coordinate efforts. The renewal of the Vision 2025 program came from this process and this is why the Vision extension had the critical elements it is known for today.
Most importantly, we approached the program with a local focus because the process was led by cities, public safety needs were addressed, and taxes were not increased. Our united group of cities all bought into this plan and we implemented it at the city level in every single city across the county. This is where the strategic direction of Vision took place.
The successful results of our collaboration have led me to conclude that when cities come together and work toward the same goals we can accomplish just about anything.
If re-elected, I look forward to continuing the tradition of cooperation that we have worked so hard to build with our neighboring cities. Tulsa leads our region in a number of ways and, under my leadership, would continue to take charge of bringing all of our municipalities together to fuel the mutual prosperity that we continue to enjoy.