pre­pares to take charge

La Semana - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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