Saturday, September 20, 2008

Un-Representative Government At Its Worst

To no one's surprise in particular, two Tulsa City Councilors who failed to even notify their neighborhoods that a huge homeless shelter was going to built there, much less help them fight it, have been temporarily reprieved. City officials declared that the recall petition directed against them by angry citizens did not state a sufficient cause of action to allow the initiative to continue to a vote because the councilors had no legal duty to communicate with their constituents or represent their interests!

The sheer arrogance of this statement is simply mind boggling. Councilor David Patrick does a great job of communicating with some of the citizens of Tulsa. He was recently cleared (again to no one in particular's surprise) in an ethics investigation which alleged that Mayor Kathy Taylor inappropriately sent a private jet to Colorado to fetch him for a key vote. If that weren't bad enough, it now appears that a Tulsa powerbroker with an interest in that vote just happened to be on the airplane at the same time. Given subsequent events, Patrick certainly had no problems with that message.

So, the pattern is becoming clear. If you and your friends can't kick in ten or twenty grand each to hire a team of lawyers to take on city hall, you can pretty well forget about your rights in municipal government. And, if you can't afford a Lear Jet to host the meeting and an "expert" to put on the Lear Jet to state your case for you, you might as well forget about even hearing from your city councilor on key issues, much less influencing him.

Councilors Gomez and Patrick apparently don't have a hearing problem. They can meet with and even skillfully represent the interests of the people they are willing to listen to. The problem is, the people they are willing to listen to are not their constituents. The most commonly used definition of American representative government comes from Lincoln's Gettsyburg Address, "government of the people, by the people and for the people." But, given the Gomez and Patrick decision, it is obvious that the City of Tulsa has adopted a new definition, "government of the rich and powerful, by the rich and powerful and for the rich and powerful."

The Gomez and Patrick decision may have been legally correct. I don't know and the folks who wrote the petition language won't know either since they probably can't afford an appeal to find out, a fact that was lost on no one, especially City officials. But, the fact that an act can be declared legal says nothing about its justice. The residents of White City and the surrounding neighborhoods may not be able to pass the hat at Southern Hills and subscribe enough money to hire a silk stocking law firm. And, they may not be able put a councilor on a Lear Jet or invite him to The Summit Club for lunch to have a little chat about their concerns. But, the neighborhood residents can vote and unless the folks these councilors are actually representing can figure out a way to literally buy the next election for them over the objection of several thousand furious neighborhood residents, their careers in Tulsa City government are over.


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