prepares to take charge
With less than two months before his inauguration, Tulsa’s mayor-elect G.T. Bynum is eager to take charge of the city and is already hard at work putting everything in place so he can hit the ground running on December 5th. Bynum took time from his busy schedule last week to chat with La Semana about his plans and priorities on the eve of becoming Tulsa’s 40th mayor.
One of the many issues facing the city is its inadequate 911 emergency system, which is plagued by excessive wait times, lengthy phone trees and a lack of enough Spanish speaking operators. This is something Bynum plans to take on right away.
“Mayor Bartlett allowed about 15 vacancies allowed to accumulate in the 911 department,” Bynum explained, “and because of that we have totally unacceptable wait times, regardless of what language one happens to speak.”
The city council has already replaced funding for these 15 operators to the budget, and the Vision package passed earlier this year will allow 15 more operators to be hired. Bynum believes having these 30 additional 911 operators on staff will make a huge difference and could even save lives.
“When you call 911 you’re in an emergency – you don’t want to wait on hold,” Bynum said.
Bynum will take office as the city is coping with the aftermath of a fatal shooting by a white police officer of an unarmed African American individual, an incident that has played out all too often in cities across the country over the past several years. Bynum believes that improving relations between the community and law enforcement is at the core of any effort to prevent needless confrontations and unhelpful assumptions on both sides. He pointed to training recommendations and other initiatives contained in a Department of Justice report on the President’s Commission on 21st Century Policing – a document brought to his attention by Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan - as a valuable starting place.
“I think the whole point of that though – of building up those relationships – is that you humanize people,” Bynum said. “The easiest thing to do when you don’t view other people from a humane standpoint – when you view them as ‘the other’ – is to stereotype them and make assumptions about them.”
Another critical issue Bynum will be confronted with during his first term in office is how to modernize the city’s public transportation system so it can cope with the growing number of people who depend on busses to get them to and from work and to avail themselves of all Tulsa has to offer.
“We also will be working on implementation of the bus rapid transit line,” Bynum said. “There will be one that runs north and south and one that runs east and west, most likely out 21st Street. They will intersect downtown and that’s a bus that will run every 15 minutes, providing folks who live in different parts of the city rapid access around town.”
Bynum promised that from providing greater information to streamlining business permits, he would make city government more accessible to Tulsa’s Hispanic population, and said his relationship with the community is “incredibly important.”
“It’s the fastest growing population in Tulsa,” Bynum observed. “I think our future as a city is going to be as a Latino city if you look 30 or 40 years down the road.”
One thing that is certain is that with all of these issues as well as downtown parking, improving relations with county officials, giving support to public education, retaining and attracting jobs, etc., Bynum will have a full plate from the moment he is sworn in on December 5th (La Semana