Tulsans approve charter changes
Among provisions is rule to allow city employees more freedom to take part in election campaigns
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%
For 8,823 84% Against 1,638 16%
For 7,406 71% Against 2,977 29%
For 8,173 78% Against 2,245 22%
For 6,914 66% Against 3,488 34%
For 6,963 68% Against 3,310 32%
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.