Tul­sans ap­prove char­ter changes

Among pro­vi­sions is rule to al­low city em­ploy­ees more free­dom to take part in elec­tion cam­paigns

Tulsa World - - Front Page - By Kevin Can­field

A small frac­tion of Tulsa's reg­is­tered vot­ers made big changes to the city's mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion sys­tem Tues­day, vot­ing over­whelm­ingly to change the elec­tion sched­ule and give city em­ploy­ees the right to ac­tively par­tic­i­pate in cam­paigns for mayor, City Coun­cil and city au­di­tor.

Those mea­sures were among seven char­ter change amend­ments on the bal­lot. None re­ceived less than 64 per­cent sup­port from those who voted.

With all of the city's 192 precincts re­port­ing, only 5.2 per­cent of the city's 197,661 reg­is­tered vot­ers cast bal­lots, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary fig­ures from the Tulsa County Elec­tion Board.

Mayor G.T. Bynum said he was grate­ful to Tul­sans for pro­vid­ing clar­ity on the cam­paign­ing is­sue and en­sur­ing that city em­ploy­ees, par­tic­u­larly vet­er­ans, have the same free­dom of speech rights as other pub­lic em­ploy­ees in the state.

“I would also say it (the vote) re­flects con­fi­dence in the way the City Coun­cil and the mayor worked to­gether on th­ese items,” he said. “Peo­ple have con­fi­dence that we vet­ted them prop­erly be­fore putting them on the bal­lot.”

The ex­ist­ing city char­ter states that no clas­si­fied em­ployee shall par­tic­i­pate in a mu­nic­i­pal cam­paign for of­fice “ex­cept to vote or state a per­sonal opinion pri­vately.”

Tues­day's vote changes the char­ter lan­guage to al­low mu­nic­i­pal em­ploy­ees to par­tic­i­pate in par­ti­san and non­par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties as long as they do so “only dur­ing off-duty hours and while not in uni­form.”

Mark Se­crist, pres­i­dent of Tulsa's Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice, wel­comed Tul­sans' de­ci­sion to ex­pand city em­ploy­ees' rights to cam­paign in mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions.

“It's won­der­ful,” he said. “This just gives the op­por­tu­nity for our guys to be in­volved in some­thing that af­fects them and their fam­i­lies.”

Jim Nance, pres­i­dent of Fire­fight­ers Lo­cal 176, thanked the City Coun­cil and Tulsa vot­ers for “restor­ing fun­da­men­tal rights to their first re­spon­ders.”

The change to the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion cy­cle takes ef­fect next year. It changes fil­ing dead­lines from April to June and makes the Au­gust elec­tion the gen­eral elec­tion. If no sin­gle can­di­date wins out­right with more than 50 per­cent of the vote, the can­di­dates would then go to a runoff elec­tion in Novem­ber.

Other key char­ter amend­ments ap­proved Tues­day in­cluded one that changes the makeup of the Tulsa's Elec­tion Dis­trict Com­mis­sion from a three-mem­ber body ap­pointed by the ma­jor par­ties and the mayor to a five-mem­ber body ap­pointed by the mayor and ap­proved by the City Coun­cil. The change is in­tended to take par­ti­san­ship out of the com­mis­sion and en­sure bet­ter ge­o­graph­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

The so-called “lock box” amend­ment ap­proved by vot­ers pro­hibits fu­ture City Coun­cils and may­ors from re­al­lo­cat­ing rev­enue from the pub­lic safety tax for other pur­poses.

The mea­sure was cham­pi­oned by City Coun­cilor Karen Gilbert, who ar­gued that the char­ter change would guar­an­tee the tax is used for pub­lic safety, as vot­ers

For 8,287 80% Against 2,120 20%

Propo­si­tion 2

For 8,823 84% Against 1,638 16%

Propo­si­tion 3

For 7,406 71% Against 2,977 29%

Propo­si­tion 4

For 8,173 78% Against 2,245 22%

Propo­si­tion 5

For 6,914 66% Against 3,488 34%

Propo­si­tion 6

For 6,963 68% Against 3,310 32%

Propo­si­tion 7

For 6,598 64% Against 3,637 36% were promised.

Three char­ter changes ap­proved by vot­ers Tues­day likely won't be re­mem­bered be­yond Elec­tion Day. The first gives the city the right to “sum­mar­ily” abate a pub­lic nui­sance, such as high grass, within 24 months of the ini­tial abate­ment. The sec­ond al­lows city coun­cilors to be no­ti­fied of a spe­cial meet­ing by email. The third al­lows the City Coun­cil to adopt emer­gency res­o­lu­tions, which typ­i­cally are used to call elec­tions or de­clare a spe­cial ob­ser­vance.

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