Tulsa, OK – State of the City - Kathy Taylor
Delivered on Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I'm here to give my final State of the City speech but while I'm
responsible for delivering it, it's not about me - it's about We.
Together we have moved Tulsa forward. Together we have
kept this great city growing. Together we have made tough
decisions in tough times.
Together we have remained true to those who preceded us and
honest with those who follow us.
So together we can agree that the state of Tulsa is STRONG.
And, the nation agrees.
Forbes Magazine says we're one of the country's five most
livable cities and we're the No. 2 midsize city for "Best Places
for Job Growth." Not second best in Oklahoma or even the
Midwest; no, second best for JOB growth in this nation.
The publication Relocate America suggests people do just that
- to right here.
Our City-County library system was given five stars as one of
the best in the nation by the Library Journal Index.
A noted travel publication calls us one of the 10 outstanding
travel destinations in North America.
Just days ago Tulsa was named best cost of living and the
second best place to live
And our amazing new BOK Center has the ninth highest
ticket sales in the nation and 23rd on the planet.
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And here's a stat that is no surprise to anyone in this room,
one of the City's best partners, our Chamber of Commerce was
named the best Chamber in America by people who should
know - The American Chamber of Commerce Executives.
We have much to be proud of. We're protecting the best of our
past while building for the future with your involvement in
PLANITULSA - the first comprehensive update to Tulsa's land
use plan in THREE decades.
We're paving streets, planting trees and fighting fat.
But there is no duty as serious for a government as keeping
its citizens safe.
We have a new state of the art 911 center to respond quickly
when minutes matter most.
We still hope to hire 18 new police officers. I know there is
disagreement on hiring these officers but when Washington
D.C. wants to send some of our tax money back to Tulsa to
keep our citizens safe - I would like to take it.
We are building a state-of-the art new forensics lab in
partnership with OSU providing better environmental
controls for 36,000 evidence items we gather each year to
And, we're turning the corner on crime. Our anti-gang unit is
on schedule to confiscate 180 illegal firearms this year.
We're cracking down on meth labs. Our police officers and
firefighters are working together to counter the
new shake and bake process of creating meth - which causes
both deadly fires and deadly addiction.
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Police and fire are where the rubber meets the road in this
devastating epidemic - in the trenches. Will you join me in
saying thanks to those who risk their lives to keep us safe
everyday - our Tulsa police and firefighters!
We're fighting gangs and we're forced to crack down on these
kids we have somehow lost along the way. A special thanks to
outgoing U.S. Attorney David O'Meilia, a true public servant,
- his partnership with me on the Building a Safer Tulsa
summit brought hundreds of Tulsans and national experts
together to find and IMPLEMENT solutions to keep all
Tulsans safe Thanks Dave.
We're all continuing to work full time to ensure we don't lose
more children to the streets, gangs and drugs with programs
to engage our kids like Junior Achievement and Ijobs.
We have boosted our efforts with mentoring and other
programs to help more kids learn during out-of-school time.
Mentoring will help more than 500 more students this year
with two groups being mentored by Tulsa musicians thanks
to the leadership of a great Tulsan, Barry Epperley.
Oklahoma has the highest rate of female incarceration in
the nation, and 83 percent of kids in Tulsa Public Schools
are living in poverty, so there are lots of kids in our city who
have few positive role models and are most at risk.
We know that if a child can't read by third grade, that child's
chance of going from the cradle to prison is increased
We talk a lot about change in politics, but there is no change
as dramatic as a child reading her first complete sentence.
That is the bedrock of a lifetime of achievement.
I'm very proud of the impact together we have made in
education from the top pre-k education in the nation, to
community schools, to Mentoring to Tulsa Achieves. We have
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over 80 teach for America teachers in Tulsa to enhance the
work done by the dedicated group who has the MOST
important job in Tulsa our teachers.
Education can change the future.
It will continue to be a focus of my time and my passion. I
hope it will be of yours.
We have also expanded our work on the Tulsa Youth
Intervention Project that has served about 300 gang-involved
youth this year. Our best-practice re-entry programs plainly
said - helping people in prison leave prison and get a job,
learn how to parent and be involved in our community we
have graduated over 100 former offenders in these programs.
That means a better life for one and less crime for all.
With Tulsa's first Veterans Advisory Council, and thanks to
some great innovative judges, we started a Veterans
Treatment Court, helping out combat veterans get the help
they need and deserve.
I'm proud that we're doing all of this with less. We're
stretching our dollars and we're stepping up because it's
smart, but also because we've had to. More than 25 percent
of our city employees have now been trained in lean
processes, thanks to our partnership with Tulsa Tech. Our
trained high performance government teams have
implemented over $5 million in city process savings.
It's been a tough economic run for our city, state and nation.
As you know, to balance our budget, we've had to ask every
city employee to take furlough days, which means a smaller
paycheck for their families. They all did their part-every single
one of them, from police to fire, from public works to finance.
Yet our city employees continue to work hard and with
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So, join me in saluting every clerk behind every window,
every person who makes our trash disappear and every
worker who fills those potholes we so loathe. Let me ask those
city employees who are with us today to stand so we may
thank them and they can share that thanks with the rest of
our team. Thank you all.
And I'm pleased that over 1,000 of those GREAT city
employees are working out of our new City Hall. City Hall is a
reflection of a community and our city hall reflects the beauty
and vibrancy of Tulsa.
We have consolidated five city facilities into one building -
saving space, energy and time and encouraging teamwork by
breaking down physical silos that separated departments.
We'll get through this tough real estate market and Tulsa will
shine with a City Hall that reflects the new kind of energy we
have awakened together.
Tulsa has always been forward looking. We have a solid
financial base community wide because 100 years ago people
were working for what was next. We're still doing that.
We've created the entrepreneurial spirit business plan
competition to bring alive that spirit which IS Tulsa - the
entrepreneurial spirit we've created the Tulsa
Collaboratorium as an incubator to provide those who are
building for tomorrow the basic tools they need today.
Indeed a company that began as a seed of an idea and won
our Spirit entrepreneur competition is now operating in over a
dozen states. Seeking Sitters is a woman-owned business that
provides childcare service nationwide. Its' smart, it's
successful and it's ours.
We are also fueling the entrepreneurial fire with the Tulsey
awards. We'll continue paying tribute to the "wildcatters" of
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our City -both those who laid the foundation and those who
are ensuring our best days still lie ahead.
While our entrepreneurs are inventing the jobs of tomorrow
we're working at some old-fashioned tree planting. Tulsa has
bounced back from the devastating ice storm in record time
but our trees haven't. Tulsa is green country and we've been
known as "tree city USA" for decades.
So our goal is to plant the 20,000 trees we lost by 2010 and
we've got 10,000 in the ground. But we need your help to get
this done. We're getting our hands dirty and creating roots
for a better tomorrow.
But life is not all work and no play in Tulsa. We're building a
fantastic baseball park with ONEOK field that will anchor a
revitalization of the Greenwood District. I know it's tough to
make a long-term investment in these times, but when we
hear the first crack of the bat on April 8, 2010 - there will be
cheering across the City.
And the BOK Center - WoW. It opened only ONE year ago.
I want to thank every one who had a hand in conceiving and
building the BOK Center - from Mayor LaFortune to the Vision
2025 team, specifically the quiet leadership of the late Jerry
Lasker, and to the voters. And thanks to everyone who has
had a hand in making its first year a success - including the
one and only general manager of the BOK Center - John
Bolton. He has more energy than I do and never stops with
new ideas for ensuring the BOK has something for everyone.
We've truly had a mammoth piece of art spring up in our
downtown. We have the largest number of art deco buildings
between Miami and New York and I believe we now have the
most beautiful building between those two cities as well.
Paul McCartney made our arena the only indoor concert of
his recent American tour. When he sings "Let it Be" we
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answer - "We Are." We are a city that dreams big and works
hard. We are a city with a beautiful past and a brilliant
Now I wasn't sure whether to put the next piece under work or
play as sometimes it feels like both. But there is less of us
here today. Not fewer but less of us thanks to so many
participating in the Tulsa Million Mile challenge.
More than 2,000 Tulsans have logged onto
TulsaMillionMiles.com and more than 798,000 miles of
exercise has been logged so far. Join us in anything active
from swimming, rollerblading, walking or biking. You tell me -
work or play?
We're fighting obesity because we must for our health and for
our prosperity. So I challenge all of you to join our
movement - literally. You'll feel better, look better and live
In my initial state of the City, I asked you to become mentors
and you responded overwhelmingly. So before I close I have
another challenge if I may.
Local food pantries need help. Emergency food pantries in
Tulsa have seen a 40 percent increase in demand. The
Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma distributed more
food in July than ever in its history. Hunger knows no
political party. Hunger knows no race or age. No child should
ever go to bed hungry. But in Oklahoma, one in every five
children has the risk of going to bed hungry.
I challenge everyone here to help. We can celebrate our
amazing city but we can't turn our heads to basic needs. There
are many food programs in Tulsa you can support. This is
hunger awareness month be aware and be involved.
And finally, a personal note - a few thank yous.
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To my family I say thank you. This job certainly stole some of
our time together. But mainly I want to thank you for standing
with me. When the editorial cartoons depicted me as a Queen,
I worried most about it hurting you. Me - I just straightened
To my colleagues in the mayor's office who have shown me the
true meaning of friendship.
To my friends and partners who are mayors in our region,
our state and federal legislators, our Governor, our tribal
leaders, our County officers and of course the City Council - I
say thank you.
We didn't always see eye to eye and we went toe to toe from
time to time. But I hope and believe our differences were
rooted in our common passion - making Tulsa an even better
place to live and raise a family. We still have a few months to
continue together and it's my hope and wish that we do it
constructively and to the degree possible, arm in arm for
after all we are colleagues in a common enterprise
serving the people of Tulsa.
Finally to Tulsans, thank you. Thank you for entrusting me
with our great city. Remember, government is never about
"me" it is about you - those who cast the vote and make
the decision..for every elected official in our precious
democracy a vote is a voice, your voice.
I've loved being mayor. It's been harder but better than I
could have ever imagined. I'm leaving the mayor's office in
December, but let me assure you that my passion to make
life better in Tulsa will never leave me.
Thank you. God Bless you, God Bless Tulsa and God Bless the
United States of America