Programs Chair, Mark Cohlmia, hit a home run inviting Tulsa's new mayor, Dewey Bartlett, Jr., to be our chapter's guest speaker at the January 2010 meeting.
Controversy has swirled around our new mayor, as he has been in the headlines for his negotiations with the Police and Fire Departments to either elect to take pay cuts or suffer cutbacks in employment numbers. As these issues and others heated up, it was questionable whether the mayor would should up. As of lunch time, his appearance was up in the air. He might make it, he might not make it, or if he did make it, he might only speak for five or ten minutes.
As it turned out, Mayor Bartlett showed up on time and was able to address the chapter for close to forty- five minutes. As the mayor went through the food line, chapter member, Brian Bennett, greeted the mayor with, "You made it!" Mayor Bartlett responded, "Yes, I did." From there, President Tony Lenox introduced the mayor shortly thereafter and what followed was an informative and entertaining presentation.
Here are some highlights of the meeting:
The mayor started off his speech by addressing the aforementioned issues surrounding the Tulsa Police and Fire Departments. He noted that they are over $10.4 million dollars in the hole and that unless concessions are made, there will be layoffs. Mayor Bartlett went on to say that his motto is that he is "The job gettingest Mayor this city has ever seen."
Next up, Mayor Bartlett said that we need a "Business Friendly Government." To accomplish this, the mayor said he would be setting up separate business forums starting in March in all the difficult parts of the city including the north, south, east, west and downtown areas. He wants business owners to attend to discuss how to grow business and employment opportunities. The mayor would also like to talk to business owners about the current permit process to see what the city is doing to screw it up and see what processes need changing. The mayor also discussed how our city government depends on sales tax revenue. It makes up 75% of the budget. The mayor encouraged us to contact Mike Bunney, Chief of Economic Development and a recent IFMA Tulsa speaker, and discuss any ideas with him for business creation and development.
The mayor then shared a line from the end of his acceptance speech after being sworn in, "The City of Tulsa is now open for business." With that, we moved on to questions submitted prior to the meeting by IFMA members.
The first question asked about what was going to happen to the old City Hall. The mayor responded that we should have a contest to blow it up. He was kidding, of course. The City of Tulsa is still tyring to rent or sell the property. So far, no takers. That was followed by a question about whether or not the City of Tulsa is still actively seeking tenants to lease space in One Technology Center. The mayor indicated that, yes, they are still trying to lease two of the floors in the OTC.
Tulsa's new WNBA team was the focus of the next question. It dealt with whether or not there was any truth to the rumor that the Tulsa Shock women's professional basketball team would be leasing space on the top floor of the old City Hall. There was a concern that having a tenant on the top floor would mean increased costs to heat and cool the building. The mayor said there is no plan for the team to house their offices there.
Mowing was the topic of the next question. The person who submitted the question wondered, with the economic crunch, why the City of Tulsa continued to mow along the highways. The mayor said the focus on mowing was generally for islands and along streets versus highways and volunteer efforts to mow are utilized.
The next question was whether or not the mayor was having second thoughts about having run for mayor in the first place, considering all the negative press he has received and all the controversy surrounding the proposed budget cuts and layoffs. The mayor replied that he has not had any second thoughts about taking over as mayor, is enjoying the job and is looking forward to bringing a more efficient city government to Tulsa. Asked if he would consider running again for a second term, the mayor said that if his wife and kids supported the idea four years from now, he would consider running again. His goal is to make Tulsa a place his kids would want to live in and not move off to another city when they're grown.
The last question of the day concerned the vacant building at 17th & Boulder that has not been occupied since the early 80's. The author of the question felt like Boulder Ave. is a main gateway to downtown Tulsa and the vacant building is a blight to the city. The mayor indicated that there are asbestos issues and costs involved to bring down the building and that is one of the reasons that nothing has been done yet. He pointed out some of the other buildings the city has struggled to get demolished because of ownership issues, etc.
Referring back to the opening statement of this story that Program Chair Mark Cohlmia hit a home run with this program, we had 44 members attend along with 11 guests for a total of 55 in attendance. That makes this meeting one of our best attended. Interestingly, one of our other best attended meetings was with previous mayor, Kathy Taylor.