Election 2016: So You Want to Be Mayor? Candidates make their pitches to undecided voters

This week we came up with a question on behalf of Tulsa's undecided voters: Why should Tulsans vote for you for mayor, rather than one of your opponents?

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City Hall

It’s finally here. Tulsans go to the polls Tuesday for the nonpartisan mayoral primary.

Every Sunday for the past two months, incumbent Mayor Dewey Bartlett and his main challenger, City Councilor G.T. Bynum, have been answering questions submitted by Tulsans.

We’ve called it “So You Want to be Mayor?”

This week we came up with a question on behalf of Tulsa’s undecided voters: Why should Tulsans vote for you for mayor, rather than one of your opponents?

Before getting to the candidates’ responses, a few reminders. A primary is typically between candidates of one party. But a nonpartisan primary, like the one Tuesday, allows every registered voter, regardless of their political affiliation, to vote for any candidate they choose.

Polling stations will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. There is no voting at the Tulsa County Election Board, 555 N. Denver Ave.

Here are the candidates’ responses to this week’s question:

Councilor Bynum’s Response:

If a Tulsan wants to cast his or her vote for someone with a demonstrated track record of setting big goals and bringing people together to achieve them, I am the only candidate in this race with those qualifications.

I chaired the development of the largest streets improvement program in city history.  I led the initiative to put water in our river, which was successful after 52 years of failure.  I coordinated the creation of the first municipal veterans treatment court in the United States, and the first municipal rainy day fund in Oklahoma.

In each of these instances  some of which took years to achieve  I pulled people together with diverse opinions to find consensus and then brought forward a successful proposal.

If a Tulsan wants to cast his or her vote for someone with a clear desire and plan to get our city growing again, I am the only candidate in this race who fits that criteria.

Tulsa grew from 1,400 people in 1900 to 395,000 in 2000.  Since 2000, our population growth has stagnated.  Population on its own is not an issue, but it is a symptom of greater problems.  And so long as our city’s costs continue to rise while our growth remains stagnant, we will continue to face the kinds of choices that have plagued us in the last 16 years: not enough funding for police or fire or street work or parks.  Mayor Bartlett has had two terms to address this and he hasn’t.

City Councilor G.T. Bynum
City Councilor G.T. Bynum

If a Tulsan wants to see the city partner more closely with our schools, they should vote for me.  I will create a Mayor’s Education Cabinet comprised of leaders in the early childhood, K-12, and higher education communities.  We will connect Tulsa children with the early childhood development programs available to them (currently there are 3,000 funded vacancies in the Tulsa area) and we will connect Tulsa families with college scholarship opportunities available to them. Tulsa County currently ranks dead last out of all 77 counties in the state of Oklahoma for registration in the Oklahoma’s Promise program, which funds four years of college for those in need.  Mayor Bartlett has had two terms to address these needs and he hasn’t.

If a Tulsan wants to see an end to the fighting between the city and the county, I am the only candidate in the race with the desire or plan to do so.  The system we have today was created a century ago when Tulsa was a rural county, but today we are an urban county with too much overlap — and conflict —between city and county government.  I will work with our fellow officials at Tulsa County to review every function provided by local government and determine if we can provide the best customer service in the 21st century by doing the work at the city, at the county, or through a merger of the two.  I have met with all three county commissioners, and all three agree this is a review that needs to take place.  Mayor Bartlett has had two terms to address this and he hasn’t.

If Tulsans want their streets fixed more quickly, I am the only candidate in this race with a plan to do so.  We need to increase oversight of scheduling for street projects with a prioritization on minimizing impact on drivers.  Mayor Bartlett has had two terms to address this and he hasn’t.

Lastly, if Tulsans want to vote for a candidate who only desires to serve as their mayor for two terms and does not wish to seek any other office, I am the only candidate in this race who fits that criteria.  I will have no outside business interests that distract me.  I won’t be looking to the next job.  My only focus will be on using every moment of the time given me as your mayor to move this city forward.

The way someone campaigns is an indicator of the way he or she will lead.  I am endorsed by the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police and the Tulsa Firefighters.  I am the first mayoral candidate ever endorsed by the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association.  I am endorsed by Congressman John Sullivan, County Commissioner Karen Keith, County Commissioner Ron Peters, and Tulsa City Councilors Jack Henderson, Blake Ewing, and Karen Gilbert.  I have run a bipartisan campaign, focused on setting aside those things that divide us and instead identifying those things that unite us.

I would be honored to have your vote on June 28.

Mayor Bartlett’s Response:

The answer is simple: I have kept my word.

When I ran for office in 2009, I made the promise to be Tulsa’s “Job Gettingest Mayor.” We accomplished that.
When I ran for a second term, I made the promise that we would create the first-ever dedicated source of funding for public safety without a tax increase. We accomplished that, and as a result we will have more police officers on the street than ever before in Tulsa’s history.
Now, as I respectfully ask for your vote for my third and final term, we have pivoted the focus of this administration toward education.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett
Mayor Dewey Bartlett
Too many children in our school system are not exposed to enough career paths, and as a result they fall through the cracks. That’s why my administration has set the goal to establish a career academy in each and every one of Tulsa’s public high schools.
These career academies are far from a pipe dream. We have already established the Tulsa Aerospace and Aviation Academy at Tulsa Tech as well as our Learning with the Wrench Program at Union High School. These programs have already helped students toward a successful outcome and a number of career paths. These academies could range from banking all the way to computer science.
Additionally, as mayor I have always seen it as my fiduciary responsibility to represent and protect the taxpayers who have trusted me to protect their interests exclusively.
My style of leadership has always been to live within our means, just like any person or business has to. When a person’s checkbook doesn’t balance, there is no easy way out. The same should be true for government, and we’ve operated by that mantra. As mayor, I have never raised taxes and I never will.   
To be candid, I have always done what I have sincerely believed is best for our city. Some may disagree with my policies, which is fine and a healthy part of the democratic process, but it is my hope that they never doubt my absolute commitment to this community.
This job has been the job of a lifetime, the best job I’ve ever had, and I would very much like to continue serving you as your mayor. On this Tuesday, I respectfully ask you for your vote. Thank you. 

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