With Mayor Dewey Bartlett and his primary challenger, City Councilor G.T. Bynum, set to debate again Friday, I thought it a good time to look at what they’ve said in previous debates and in other public statements to see whether their pronouncements jibe with the facts.
The candidates have several debates planned before the June 28 primary, including Friday’s 6 p.m. event at East Central Junior High School, 12121 E. 21 St., sponsored by Que Bueno and the Tulsa World.
There will surely be more political fodder to fuss over. But, for now, here are a few of the key pronouncements the candidates have made and how they hold up to scrutiny.
MAYOR BARTLETT ON SAVINGS PRODUCED BY KPMG STUDY:
“We have verifiably saved roughly $25 million. It’s about $5 million annually.”
NOT CLOSE: The city of Tulsa has identified $695,791 in savings — or projected savings — and revenue enhancements from fiscal years 2012 through 2016 that have resulted directly from implementing KPMG recommendations, according to a report from the Maximizing and Advancing Performance Office.
The figure increases to $10,870,633 when taking into account savings — or projected savings — and revenue enhancements that resulted from KPMG recommendations and related work done by city departments, sometimes in conjunction with outside consultants.
The Bartlett administration credits the KPMG study as having been the catalyst for a citywide revaluation of operations and best practices. For example, the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority, which oversees the city’s water and sewer departments, hired an outside consulting firm to help review its operations after KPMG recommended that the city consider privatizing the services.
That process led to TMUA’s Utility Enterprise Initiative, which aims to reduce Tulsans’ future water and sewer rate increases by 15 percent to 20 percent.
In addition to the KPMG or KPMG-related savings and revenue enhancements, the MAAP Office report lists another $8.5 million in savings and revenue enhancements that were not identified in KPMG but were implemented over the five-year period, putting the total amount of savings at $19.4 million.
The city has implemented another 48 recommendations of the KPMG study that resulted in efficiencies but no savings, and is currently in the process of implementing 55 more, according to MAAP.
The entire KPMG study, which includes more than 1,000 recommendations, has been vetted, according to the city.
The KPMG study was initiated by the Mayor’s Office to determine how the city could operate more efficiently and effectively.
The study was paid for by Tulsa Community Foundation.
Bartlett has used the $25 million figure repeatedly as an example of his administration’s work to cut costs and improve government efficiency.
COUNCILOR BYNUM ON EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS:
“There are over 3,000 early childhood development positions that are funded and available in the city of Tulsa right now that are vacant because parents don’t know how to access them or that they are even available.”
NOT QUITE: Bynum said he based his remark on Impact Tulsa’s 2015 Community Impact Report.
That document states that there are at least 3,000 young people in the Tulsa area — not the city of Tulsa — that are not accessing vacant early childhood positions.
The Impact Tulsa report covers 15 school districts and pertains exclusively to 4-year-olds, according to Impact Tulsa officials.
Tulsa Public Schools estimates there are about 800 to 900 4-year-olds in the city who are not enrolled in either a TPS or private early childhood program.
Bynum used the number as an example of a need the city could help address by working with educators to ensure that all eligible pre-K students are placed in early childhood programs. He has since made a point of stating that the figure covers the Tulsa area.
MAYOR BARTLETT ON ECONOMIC GROWTH:
“By the way, 25 new companies are now locating in Tulsa in the oil and gas business fueled by over $2 billion of equity money.”
PRETTY DARN CLOSE: The Tulsa Regional Chamber was unable to verify Bartlett’s statement.
However, a Chamber spokesperson did say Tulsa has 25 energy start-up companies backed by private equity that have been launched by energy executives transitioning after the drop in oil prices.
Rick Fritz is the CEO of one of those start-ups, Council Oak Resources. He told The Frontier that in the last couple of years at least 27 private equity companies have formed in Tulsa and three more are forming. In addition, several new private equity companies with headquarters in other cities have opened offices in Tulsa, Fritz said.
He estimate their funding to be more than $4.5 billion, and said that that was a conservative estimate.
BYNUM ON JOB GROWTH IN TULSA: “The reality is, during Mayor Bartlett’s time in office, Oklahoma City has outpaced us on job growth three to one.”
NOT QUITE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows employment growth of 27,972 in Tulsa from Dec. 2010 to March 2016.
During the same period, Oklahoma City has seen its employment increase by 59,708.
That’s roughly twice as many jobs as were created in Tulsa over the same period.
Oklahoma City is larger than Tulsa in population and land, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Bynum has corrected himself to say the disparity in growth is two to one, not three to one.