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Fighting over city inmates at the county jail

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The City of Tulsa and the County are fighting over compensation for city inmates at the county jail.

I interviewed both County Commissioner John Smaligo and Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor about this disagreement this week.

They both have very rational, reasonable, logical reasons why their side shouldn't, can't, won't budge.

The City hasn't paid for city inmates before because the original contract said Tulsa was donating other things (mostly property) of equal value. Now, that 10 year contract has expired and the jail wants Tulsa to pay up, just like the other cities in the County must do.

The County says it needs $54 per city inmate. Tulsa wants to pay $18. The County says this, the City says that and on and on and on.

It seems to me that the average person in Tulsa County thinks it's ridiculous that the City and County can't figure out how to resolve this and move forward rather than to get in a spitting match, digging in their heels and possibly costing all taxpayers more money than is necessary.

This is the kind of thing that drives citizens crazy, just like when Democrats and Republicans can't work together on something important.

Yes, the City says it's in the right and its taxpayers are already funding most of the jail and paying the $54 is like asking them to pay twice. Yes, the County is right when it says it needs the money to book and house inmates, because it's not cheap and getting more expensive every year. The Mayor says she must look out for the citizens who elected her. The County says it must protect citizens in outlying areas because they pay their fair share of taxes too.

Yet, I talk to people who say for heaven's sake, compromise, find mutual ground, work it out and by all means, do what will save, not cost taxpayer's money. That's what they want from elected leaders.

My phone is ringing off the hook from police officers who say if this isn't fixed by the deadline of September 30th, things are going to be a real mess. Rumors are floating about dispatchers being kicked out of their stations, of the City demanding the County remove all of its items from the property room, of officers not being allowed to arrest anyone with misdemeanor warrants, because the jail won't take them because the Mayor won't pay.

The people I talk to don't want leaders even at the City and County levels to lose touch with what's really important to "the people." They want law and they want order. Right now, it seems like both could be in jeopardy if the City and County don't work out a deal.

Leaders are elected to lead, which must mean standing up when it counts, backing down when it's required and compromising to make progress.

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