Tulsa Council Advances Talks On City Government Change

Thursday, March 24th 2011, 10:09 pm
By: News On 6

Emory Bryan, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- There are new developments in the plan to change Tulsa's government. It's a project the city council undertook long before the current effort to oust the mayor.

It hasn't gotten much attention, but the city council is working on a major change to Tulsa's government. All of their plans would diminish the power of the Mayor, but it could take away some power from the council as well.

10/14/2010 Related Story: Tulsa City Council Slowing Down On Charter Change

The City Council is working on a new government for Tulsa and, while they have a lot of issues to iron out, they're not debating whether or not to keep the mayor in charge.

They are now taking advice from a former city councilor encouraging a strong city manager government.

"The division that exists between the executive and legislative branch in Tulsa, in a way it's artificial and there's no need for it," Robert Gardner, a former city councilor, said.

It's now become routine for the council to pass something which gets a veto from Mayor, which they override. They did it again Thursday night.

"We give up and now the mayor send us a veto letter vetoing that resolution and says we can't give up, so I'm sorry Mayor, we do," Councilor Rick Westcott said.

The changes under consideration would shift power between the council, the mayor, and the voters, passing some of it to an unelected city manager.

"So there are substantial differences, the differences need to be explained and the power centers of government need to be identified to the voters satisfaction," David Pauling, Interim City Attorney, said. "The ability of the city to function is different with these forms of government."

"Right now we're just looking at the different forms of government and getting ideas, seeing what's best for Tulsa. We're going to present them to the citizens and let them have their word in," said Councilor Chris Trail.

The council's first draft of possible changes is due by April 28, 2011. They'll take citizen feedback during May and June, then create a final draft and vote by July 7, 2011. Citizens would vote on the charter change this fall.

Right now, the council is looking to Oklahoma City as a model of what works.

"I think the goal is to make city government in Tulsa more efficient and probably bring it a level closer to the citizens," Councilor Bill Christiansen said.

There is still the petition drive to oust the mayor, and a citizens group working on a charter change. Voters are still ultimately in charge; they're the only ones who can sign petitions or approve a new kind of government.

3/11/2011 Related Story: Governor Denies Councilor's Request To Call For Investigation Into Tulsa Mayor