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 questions 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 questions come from members of Tulsa’s Young Professionals. The organization held a press conference recently to challenge mayoral candidates to address their concerns and to encourage voter participation.
Here are questions submitted by the four TYPros members who spoke at the press conference:
Question 1: What would you implement from an ordinance standpoint to make sure that we are providing an inclusive community for all Tulsans?
Bynum’s response: I have both authored and supported ordinances in my time on the City Council that improved Tulsa’s inclusivity, but ordinances are only part of what Tulsans should expect from their mayor.
We need a mayor who is focused on service and bringing all Tulsans together, not politics and self-advantageous division. That is why I am running a bipartisan campaign that seeks to unite Tulsans behind big goals. That is also why I’m not getting involved in other political races. My aim is to spend time on those things that unite us, rather than emphasizing those things that divide us.
Bartlett’s response: We have striven as a city to ensure that this is a place that promotes diverse groups and acceptance of everyone.
In this endeavor, we have chosen to take meaningful steps to lead by example. One such example is the African American Affairs Commission, which I have requested that the City Council support by ordinance. This will be the first African American Affairs Commission in Tulsa.
The voice that I am most conscious of is that of the taxpayers of Tulsa, the taxpayers who have entrusted me to advocate on their behalf. I have always stood up to special interests who only desire to benefit themselves. Sometimes that has led to conflict, but that’s OK because I will always continue to fight for the citizens of Tulsa and for the greater good of our city.
Question 2: What would you do to create more transportation options for Tulsa?
Bartlett’s response: A good infrastructure is crucial to ensuring a city’s continued economic growth. Through the successful passage of Vision Tulsa, $102 million are being directed toward our transit system as well as maintaining and rebuilding our roads.
As a result, Tulsa Transit will be offering a higher frequency of service while also providing longer hours of operation. The bus rapid transit system will run all the way from north Peoria to south Peoria and east 11th Street to west 11th Street, enabling everyone to access all parts of city in a more efficient manner. Additionally, Tulsa Transit will be offering Sunday service as well allowing individuals to utilize our transportation system every day of the week.
This will make jobs and services accessible to people, where it might have been inaccessible before.
The Vision Tulsa funds, in conjunction with the Improve Our Tulsa funds, have given us the opportunity to begin the process of fixing our streets, which have been left in disrepair for decades. We are also setting aside money to maintain our streets after they have been rebuilt so that they last longer. Over 344 miles of streets have been repaired since I have been mayor. There will be crews whose sole purpose is to repair street damage in a permanent way.
In the coming years, we will see a number of major investments that we have made in our transportation system come to fruition.
Bynum’s response: As chair of the Improve Our Tulsa initiative, I worked with my City Council colleagues to fund construction of Tulsa’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) line on the Peoria corridor. I supported inclusion in the Vision renewal of funds to construct a second BRT line on the Route 66 corridor and to then operate both lines. As mayor, I will manage the construction and operational start for both of these BRT lines — options which I believe will change the way Tulsans view and use public transit.
I co-authored (with Councilor Blake Ewing) the ordinance allowing ride-sharing programs like Uber and Lyft to operate in Tulsa. On the car front, I believe we need to start thinking about the opportunities presented by driverless vehicles. Some of the greatest minds in corporate innovation today are developing that technology, and we ought to prepare accordingly.
I also assisted in the establishment of the Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee and the city’s Complete Streets policy. As mayor, I will support the establishment of more bike lanes and routes throughout the city.
Question 3: What is the one single thing you as mayor could do that would have the biggest impact on downtown development over the next decade?
Bynum’s response: I support the Center of the Universe multimodal hub and believe it will have a transformative impact on connectivity to and within downtown, but the single greatest thing I will do as mayor to make an impact on downtown development is to set the goal of getting Tulsa growing again.
Our population growth has been stagnant for 16 years. During the current mayor’s time in office, Oklahoma City has outpaced us by more than a 2 to1 margin in job growth. If we want downtown – as a corporate, commercial, and residential center — to grow, we have to return Tulsa to its previous emphasis on national competition. That is where the real economic growth in the 21st century will occur — not in regional fights with our suburban neighbors or Tulsa County.
We need economic growth to fuel downtown development over the long term. My time in the Mayor’s Office will be focused on our greatest obstacles to that growth (perceived educational opportunities and an outdated form of city-county government), so our city leaders can be focused on competing at a national and international level again.
Bartlett’s response: My goal has been to attract and bring investment to all parts of Tulsa.
For downtown specifically we have had a lot of success through attractive taxation policies. We have used tax increment financing (TIF) to fund important infrastructure so that big developments can take place. Tax abatements have also created growth in downtown. I will continue to use TIF and tax abatements to stimulate growth where it can make the difference. I am proud that we have been successful with these tools and it is why we have seen explosive private development growth downtown.
From a public project perspective, I look forward to planning and designing the new convention center district. We set aside funding in the Vision Tulsa program for this purpose and it should be game-changing for that part of downtown.
Question 4: What kind of connections and what kind of support could the city provide to local schools to help improve them?
Bartlett’s response: While municipal government in the state of Oklahoma has no obligation to fund our public school system, my administration has made taking an active role in our education system a priority for the future.
We have already started to implement educational programs built around specific job training academies. I am working to place a unique career academy in every high school in the Tulsa Public School system.
We need to recognize the diverse spectrum of interests and skills that our young Tulsans have.
We have already implemented two career academies in our public high schools here in Tulsa.
The Learning with the Wrench program at Union High School enables students to learn how to be a mechanic and graduate with a mechanics certificate within their high school curriculum. The Aerospace and Aviation Academy at Tulsa Tech puts students on a number of career paths in the field of aviation.
If re-elected, we will continue to expand these career academies into every public high school in Tulsa. Career academies beyond those already in existence could include a banking academy, an architectural engineering academy and more. Any student would have the option to attend a career academy of their choice. These academies open up academic and career choices for students who otherwise might not have such opportunities.
Bynum’s response: The chief reason I am running for mayor is because I believe we have to get Tulsa growing again. This requires a candid focus on our city’s greatest obstacles to growth.
One of those is that our education system in Tulsa is not currently viewed as the best in the state. My goal is to change that. This is one of the reasons I am the first mayoral candidate in Tulsa history to be endorsed by the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association.
There are several opportunities for us to pursue at the outset as we work to make Tulsa the best place in Oklahoma to receive an education.
As mayor I will convene an education cabinet comprised of education leaders at all levels (pre-K through higher ed) to develop an overall education strategy for our city and to identify ways we can better help one another more proactively than we do today. The days of the city government saying education is someone else’s problem will be over.
Today, too many children are missing out on funded opportunities for them to benefit from early childhood education because their parents either don’t know these opportunities exist or they don’t know how to access them. As mayor, I will utilize the communications tools at my disposal to connect them with those programs so they can be better prepared for the classroom.
Similarly, there are funded scholarship opportunities for college provided by the Oklahoma’s Promise program. Of all 77 counties in the state, Tulsa County ranks dead last in registration percentage. As with early childhood education opportunities, we will work to connect families with this program.
I will also be a more proactive advocate at the state level on behalf of Tulsa schools. I believe there are opportunities presented by the current state budget crisis for local communities to partner more closely with the state in funding education, and Tulsa should have a mayor that offers such solutions.