Tulsans will go to the polls June 28 for the city’s nonpartisan mayoral primary.
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 The Frontier at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week’s question comes from Mona Herrion of north Tulsa.
Herrion, 44, says she’s concerned that too many children in north Tulsa are growing up in gated communities — and not the kind of gated communities one might find in a wealthy part of town.
Herrion’s talking about north Tulsa apartment complexes that, for security reasons, are gated.
“It’s like you’re living in a prison,” she said. “It’s the places you stay that make a community, and it’s the people who make the community.”
Question: “What will you do to better the lives of the black children in our neighborhoods?”
Councilor Bynum’s Response:
The decision to run for mayor was not an easy one or a quick one for me. My wife and I agonized over it for months. But if I had to point to one defining moment in that decision-making process, it was when we learned that the average child born in north Tulsa today is expected to live 12 years less than a child born in south Tulsa.
That statistic should be a point of shame for our city. For our family, we felt a moral responsibility to do whatever we could to change it — and with the potential to serve as mayor staring us in the face, the calling became clear.
So I set out to understand how this could be — how could Tulsa children be robbed of more than a decade of life? I met with north Tulsa community leaders, seeking their expertise and knowledge.
What I gathered from those conversations is that we have work to do as a city in at least three key areas.
First, we must do more to provide quality educational opportunities for north Tulsa children. For too long, the city government has taken the position that educational leadership is someone else’s responsibility. That has to change. The city must be a much more proactive partner with our schools, and as mayor I will be a champion for quality education.
Second, we must do more to connect those who need it with primary health care. The problem begins with something simple like an ear infection. If you have to walk for miles to go to the doctor for treatment, you may decide to stay home and “tough it out.” This begins a cycle of not treating basic medical issues that can snowball into chronic problems as a person ages The city must work more proactively with health care providers in north Tulsa to improve transportation options to primary health care facilities.
Third, we must do more to create job growth in north Tulsa. The trap of crime and gangs is frequently a last resort when other viable means of making a living appear inaccessible. In the last seven years, Oklahoma City has outpaced Tulsa in job growth by a more than 2-to-1 margin. I believe this is largely due to our current mayor’s focus on winning regional turf battles rather than competing at a national level, where the real opportunities for economic growth reside. We must return Tulsa to a focus on working with our neighbors to compete at a national level, and we must prioritize the economic revitalization of north Tulsa.
Our children are the most important thing in the whole world to my wife and I, and we know parents feel the exact same way about their kids regardless of the part of town they happen to call home. We have to set aside those things that divide us, and agree as Tulsans that we have work to do together to improve the lives of our city’s children.
Mayor Bartlett’s Response:
The future for children in Tulsa looks brighter than ever before. Under my administration we’ve taken steps to make meaningful changes to our local education system, to improve public safety and to better our streets and transportation system. Our success in these areas will enable us to prosper in the long term.
Making education a local priority has been a chief concern of mine and the concern of many Tulsans.
City government may not have a formal obligation to be involved with our local school system, but I personally made the decision that we must take an active role in improving our public education system.
A few years ago, I laid out a practical and attainable plan to improve our schools by pairing Tulsa’s aviation industry with Tulsa Tech and our local public high schools in order to create the Tulsa Aerospace and Aviation Academy. We also created the Learning with a Wrench program at our city automotive maintenance facilities for kids interested in automotive and engine repair education. We just graduated our first class at Union High School this year.
It is my goal to put one of these career academies in every single one of our public high schools. These programs enable high school graduates to enter into the work force with a tangible skill or trade that leaves them prepared to embark down a promising career path.
I would encourage anyone to visit these programs to see the purpose and excitement that these students share. You can see it in their eyes. They know exactly what they want to do and they are excited about doing it.
Consider the long-term consequences of what this program can achieve for our community. Tulsa will have more skilled professionals, which will attract more high paying jobs and perpetuate Tulsa’s growth. Additionally, this system will give our home-grown Tulsans an opportunity right here at home. These graduates will be able to give back to their neighborhoods and collectively continue in the process of improving our great city.
Through the successful passage of Vision Tulsa we are improving safety in Tulsa neighborhoods. We now have dedicated funding for 160 new police officers and 65 firefighters. As a result of my leadership, Tulsa will have more police on the streets than ever before in our city’s history.
Vision has also enabled us to give our local bus system, Tulsa Transit, the funds to establish a rapid transit system. Bus rapid transit will run from North Peoria all the way down to South Peoria as well as from East 11th Street to West 11th street at a high frequency of service.
Three hundred forty-four miles of streets have been repaired during my administration and we will continue to be aggressive in making sure that we are building streets correctly and that they will be maintained for the future.
“Better education, career opportunities, a safer city, and more connectivity through improved transportation will be the way I improve the lives of Tulsa’s children.”