SGT’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws clearly define our organization’s option to advocate for or against candidates for local office. Our Trustees and Advisory Board Members have agreed that option will be used sparingly, and only in cases where compelling circumstances exist.
We’ve determined that the Tulsa mayoral election of 2016 is crucially important and made a collective decision to support Councilor G.T. Bynum. Our recommendation is based upon a clear, principle-based approach after a careful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the two leading candidates as we perceive them.
In an era of headlines and sound bites we want to caution voters against concluding that our endorsement of any candidate or proposal implies their wholesale alignment with smart growth principles and practices. Nor do we want our positions to come across as the outcome of a partisan judgment by a group with a political agenda.
At SGT, we envision an equitable, resilient, connected and flourishing community and our mission is to Advocate and Shape Smart Public Policy. We therefore seek to help people evaluate options and make informed decisions upon a more nuanced examination of the issues at stake than the typical campaign rhetoric focused on streets and public safety.
Our analysis is based upon observations of the two candidates’ actions over the years they’ve served in elected office and on their responses to a questionnaire sent earlier to each of them. Click here to review the questions and the responses we received. The results speak for themselves.
We rated Bartlett and Bynum in several different areas:
Work ethic and attention to detail
Successful leadership is less about just showing up and more about arriving prepared to listen, to participate, to collaborate and to put in the hard work. Mayor Bartlett arguably has a dismal practice in that regard, routinely sending staffers to represent him, avoiding the uncomfortable position of having to articulate and or defend his position on policy matters.
Councilor Bynum on the other hand, has an exemplary record of attendance at task force and committee meetings. He shows up with an open-mind and comes prepared with fresh ideas and proposed solutions. And he seems genuinely curious and interested in learning new things, an essential leadership trait in a time riven by dazzling change and boundless innovation.
Interpersonal skills and management style
Dewey Bartlett has a well-established history of contentious relationships, with a host of actors from the County Commission to Tulsa’s public safety unions. He has exploited his privilege in a strong-mayor form of government, often times with a confrontational “take no prisoners” attitude that’s created enormous community angst and mistrust.
Tactics employed by Bartlett during his first term led to the most divisive and contentious two-year relationship in the history of the mayor/ council form of government. From all appearances, the only time the mayor is ever willing to compromise is when he is forced by public opinion to retreat as he ultimately did on the controversial Riverside Drive sidewalk controversy.
Clearly, G.T. Bynum has a much more even-handed approach. It’s evidenced by his ability to listen to all sides of an issue and reserve judgment until his constituents and peers have had an opportunity present their case.
If elected, Bynum will forego his part time career as a lobbyist, but the relationship-building skills he has sharpened in that arena will serve the City of Tulsa well in building trusting connections and cooperation with other governmental entities and representatives. These are crucially important, especially at the state’s legislative level.
Energy and enthusiasm for the job
The image and demeanor of any chief executive is important because they are the public face of the organizations they represent. Dewey Bartlett often appears lethargic and disengaged and unwilling to get down in the weeds and work shoulder to shoulder with others. It’s an unbecoming trait not likely to change with another term.
Councilor Bynum contrasts that lassitude with a refreshing enthusiasm and a dogged determination to re-capture the spirit, imagination, and energy that accompanied Tulsa’s extraordinary growth and prosperity in years past. The successful pursuit of excellence and high standards by any community is emboldened when community leaders and elected officials lead the way rather than just follow along.
Adaptability and capacity for change
Competitive and resilient cities face mounting external pressures that present enormous challenges. While education, public safety and streets occupy much of our attention, there are myriad of imminent and herculean changes on the horizon.
Climate change is cited as a major threat to human civilization. Driverless cars and declining auto dependency by millennials and seniors indicate a shift towards transit, walking and bikes. The final transference from manufacturing to a knowledge based economy now drives productivity and economic growth. The effects of income inequality and the growing demand for affordable housing must be dealt with.
We find no evidence that Mayor Bartlett has either the motivation or skill-set to effectively manage these kinds of tectonic shifts in the urban equilibrium. He appears to have isolated himself in his 15th floor city hall office, surrounded by like-minded yes-people, who dare not rock the ship. He is apparently satisfied to rest on his laurels, modest though they may be.
Councilor Bynum has differentiated himself from the mayor on many fronts. He played a major role in the adoption of Tulsa’s Complete Streets policy. He led the way in crafting a River Design Overlay that will help protect the corridor from inappropriate high-density real estate development. He was a key player in shaping nearly $2 Billion in three separate capital spending and economic development programs. He helped create the city’s open data policy and he’s stood firm against mayoral budget cuts adversely affecting Tulsa’s transit system.
We believe G.T. Bynum will be open to the creation of a more compact, walkable and accessible city. His dedication and hard work has earned him the opportunity to show what he can do as mayor. We support him and his effort to raise the bar and pursue excellence.
Finally, this is a generational election. GT Bynum will be the first post-baby boomer mayor. The mantle of our city leadership must now be passed to the successor generation to help shape the future in which they and their children will live.
We strongly encourage everyone to read the two candidates’ responses to our questions. Bartlett simply cannot compete with Bynum’s understanding of the issues or the positive ideas he brings to the table. In a mayoral contest between Bynum and Bartlett, Bynum is the smart choice.