July 13th. And so it begins…
Posted on July 13, 2011
As many of you know, I announced recently my intentions to run for Tulsa’s District 4 City Council seat. In the time since that announcement, others have decided, for one reason or another, to join me in pursuit of public office. This week was Tulsa’s filing week and in the last few days, over twenty people have submitted paperwork to the election board.
We humans are an interesting race. We’re driven by things like love, money, and fear. We have hobbies and passions. Some of us work hard. Some of us play hard. Some of us hardly do anything at all. Two people in the same basic place at the same basic time can have entirely different ideas about what’s happening around them and can be compelled to react very differently.
Roughly 400,000 of us find ourselves in Tulsa – a “big little” city or a “little big” city that sits smack in the middle of our great nation. We live here because it’s comfortable or because the people are friendly. Some of us live here because our parents live here. Some of us choose it for ourselves, for others of us, it was somehow chosen for us. Employers may have moved us here or opportunity brought us here. Some of us even left and came back.
So what’s your thing? What are you in to? You like sports? Do you read? Do you have kids? Are you an artist or a writer? Perhaps you’re in to politics. Odds are strong that you care deeply about something. You spend your free time or even your work time doing something that you care about. Of course you do. You’re human. You’re built to care about things. For a community to thrive, it has to be made up of people caring about all kinds of different things. We need deacons and elders and Boy Scout leaders and coaches, and recyclers, and pet lovers, and choir directors and big brothers and big sisters, and people who volunteer. We need people to care about all kinds of different things. It may sound simple, but without that love and the expression of it, the community suffers. I may not be the guy who does some of those things, but I’m glad that there are people who do. We all have our unique passions. Mine is Tulsa. I know, that sounds like something a candidate would say, but please believe me. The things I do and the places I do them speak to that love. I care deeply about my city and I’m confident that it shows. Long before I announced that I was running for office, I was working to make Tulsa a better place, and if I win or lose, that work will continue. It’s my interest, my hobby, my occupation. It is my passion.
Caring about our city is a funny thing. It’s big and bulky and complicated. Many of us just trust that for the most part things are going to be okay. No matter what the politicians are up to, be they efficient or not, we still manage to have roads and police officers and firefighters and parks. Sometimes fun things even show up like arenas and museums and ballparks. Those things affect our quality of life and shape our experience as citizens, but how much attention do we really pay? How involved should we be? Do we need to care? I think it’s okay if we care to varying degrees, but I also think it’s important that when it comes to the city, we don’t just leave it up to others. I think we should all care about this thing to some degree.
In the last City Council election, my district of over 40,000 had around 4,000 voters. Roughly ten percent of one of the more active districts in town showed up to vote in a hotly contested race. Clearly the majority of Tulsans are okay with letting a small number of Tulsans decide who runs the city.
That fact has created a scenario in which the primary strategy for winning a council seat is to walk around the neighborhoods knocking on doors and meeting people face to face and then send lots of mail pieces to the people who vote. If only 4,000 people are going to vote, a candidate can literally talk to all of them and with enough cash, can mail something to each voter. I love the idea of meeting voters face to face and of mailing them print collateral, but I’m concerned that our council seats are then likely to be won by the people with the most spare time and the most money. Do we want our city council to be made up of people who don’t have real jobs? Do we want the individuals who run our city to be the ones who can raise and spend the most money? Our city council was originally intended to be available to citizens who work a traditional job. It’s been mutated into a council of unemployed, lightly employed, or retired people with plenty of spare time on their hands and the connections to raise money. I understand that the job is demanding and that it will take time. Public service should be a sacrifice. It shouldn’t be a career move or something to fill up an otherwise empty schedule. It also shouldn’t be able to be bought. Tulsa is too important.
As it is, we’re trusting the future of our city to the votes of around 10% of our population from a pool of candidates largely made up of retirees, political climbers, and lawyers.
I think we can do better. I ask you what kind of city councilor you’d like to have. If you really thought about it, what would you come up with? Would you select business minded entrepreneurs with a history of creating jobs, developing blighted buildings, revitalizing neighborhoods, supporting the arts, and caring for the needy? Would you want them to be big thinkers who are running for city council, not because there were no State or county offices to run for, but because they are most passionate about the city of Tulsa? Would you want them to be people who don’t just talk about growth and jobs, but create them? Would you want people who aren’t afraid to take on the establishment and who don’t mind calling out shady political consultants who hurt our city by puling strings no man should be allowed to pull? Would you choose people who aren’t indebted to anyone, including The Chamber, the political parties, the developers, the old money, etc.? Would you want City Councilors who are known for being able to communicate effectively, solve problems, and push others towards progress without fighting and backstabbing? I do. That’s why I’m running.
I ask you all to join me in caring for our city. I’m not asking you to drop all that you’re doing and give it all of your time, but I’m asking that you get involved where you can. Pay attention to the races, donate, volunteer, talk about it at the water cooler or on Facebook. Tweet it. And most of all, vote. Your first opportunity is the primaries on September 13th.
If you’d like to support my campaign, we’re having a party tonight at Fassler Hall at 3rd and Elgin (21 and over) at 5:13 PM. We’ll have volunteer sign-ups and shirts to wear and will be registering people to vote right then and there. We’re asking for small $13 donations to remind supporters to then vote on September 13th. Fun huh? Let’s hope it’s lucky number 13. Thanks for reading my blog and thanks for caring about our city.
I’m getting up now. I’m walking out the door and driving to the election board to file my candidacy on July 13th, 2011. Wish me luck.