State of the City Address

Tulsa, OK – Mayor Dewey Bartlett
State of the City Speech
September 15, 2011 - As Prepared
Thank you Jeff (Dunn) for the wonderful introduction. (Special thanks to my family - Victoria,
Ann and J.P. Bennett, Andrea Peterson, an assistant DA with District Attorney Tim Harris and her
fianc Brad Brown, who is in his final year at TU law school and Dewey III who is working today)
for being by my side and offering their support, advice and wisdom every step of the way.
Thanks to the Chamber for hosting this annual event and providing a forum for us to let this key
part of Tulsa's business world know that we are moving in the right direction, and what our
employees and citizens can expect from us for the next year or so. I will say there is an
abundance of pride and optimism about our city.
One thing I can always say about my job - it is interesting. We've had our ups and downs and
we've set some new records. You might remember our little snowstorm in late January and
February. Now, our Okie version of Webster's dictionary has a new definition of cooler that's 95
degrees! Our communications department put together a video that will help jog your memory
on a few of the events of the past year
What you just saw is but a fraction of the appreciation that our community has for our city
personnel who get us through emergencies. And there are those in the community that help as
well - David Litzinger is here today and I'd like to recognize him and thank Lexus of Tulsa for
their loan of SUVs to transport dialysis patients to their clinics and hospitals during the terrible
blizzard events.
I'd also like to recognize several members of city government who are here today. They
represent thousands of outstanding civil servants, and they need a good pat on the back every
once in awhile. Our police, fire and EMSA, and street crews, worked together and we avoided
any loss of life. I asked the firefighters to drive their trucks through our neighborhoods to pack
down the snow and be available to help our neighbors. I had the opportunity to ride with
Engine Company 22, located on 15th Street. My special thanks to Fire Equipment Operator Josh
Lamb and Assistant Fire Chief Ray Driskell for giving me the opportunity to see how they work.
I experienced firsthand what it's like to ride in a snow plow and spread salt with Street
maintenance employee Kevin Rabb and asked him to be here today representing the more than
250 employees in his department. - Dan Crossland - the new Director of the Streets & Storm
Water Department - Dan and Kevin, please stand up and let us see you. Thank you.
Many of our departments contributed to the effort, but we couldn't keep our vehicles out on
the streets if not for the Equipment Management Department employees Shawn Ross, Roy
Rinehart, Robert Fazendine and Bob Brown. These employees could not be here today, but I
wanted to make sure the citizens know how important they are to our overall operations.
Just imagine working at a below zero temperature to fix a broken water line. Then imagine
doing the same in record heat on an asphalt street. Our Water Line Crews repaired more than
830 Water Line breaks this year. During our record heat, the water delivery system was nearly
taken to its limit. I want to thank our new Water Department Director Clayton Edwards and his
crews for fixing and maintaining our water system under very difficult circumstances. Clayton,
please stand up and let us recognize you.
Police Chief Chuck Jordan came into this administration and put our officers back on the streets
and increased police presence in our neighborhoods. We have an outstanding, honest and
committed police department. For a man who has spent his entire career keeping our
community safe and embracing community policing policies, it has been a difficult time. Please
show your appreciation for our Chief of Police Chuck Jordan.
Faced with a slowing economy and historic declines in our sales tax collections, we had to make
very difficult and quick decisions that impacted lives. We had our differences in our approach at
times, but this Council and I got through it together. We have passed budgets and discovered
common ground. We're on the other side of it, and I can assure you we are moving forward. To
the members of the Tulsa City Council here today, thank you. We appreciate your service.
To those soon to be members of the Tulsa City Council, I am looking forward to working with
you as well. I well recognize the opportunity that we have to work together for the good of our
I only get to thank people publicly once a year. So I want to take advantage of it and give my
thanks to the Tulsa County Commissioners - Chairman Fred Perry, Karen Keith and John
Smaligo who worked with us on a City/County Collaborative Advisory committee. To save your
tax dollars, we've identified several sharing opportunities in purchasing, street maintenance,
information technology and parks. We recently began sharing employee health clinics and will
be jointly bidding our insurance coverage, all done with the purpose of saving tax dollars. When
I say Tulsa is Open for Business, after having worked with these county officials, it's not just the
city of Tulsa all of Tulsa County IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS.
I'm standing here today to tell you that Tulsa is moving in the right direction. We are seeing
the benefits of our planning and efforts to save money through better management. By the end
of fiscal year 2011, we began to put the city together again, restoring services to customers,
and increasing our investment in core services, such as public safety and code enforcement.
You can't speak of progress without mentioning downtown Tulsa, the hub of our region. Where
else can you walk to see Eric Clapton, see the Drillers hit a homerun or see Steve Martin at the
Performing Arts Center, a venue celebrating 35 years in business: thank you John Scott for your
leadership. Our young professionals will be walking from their loft apartments to two new
grocery stores. We just announced one yesterday. It's happening. We can soon walk across the
Boulder Bridge again to get to the Brady District where a Renaissance is also taking place. My
son Dewey knows this first hand. He just moved back to Tulsa to live downtown, and he, like
the others, is quickly learning that living and working downtown is convenient and enjoyable.
We are bringing young people to downtown, and we are building the housing to get them to
stay. Did you know for the first time, there are waiting lists to get an apartment downtown?
Who would have anticipated that 10 years ago? We want to continue that kind of growth.
One thing we've done is taken our Sister Cities program to a new level by using it as an
economic development tool, as well as a cultural exchange. This summer we hosted the
Japanese Ambassador to the United States for his very first trip to Oklahoma. He's been helpful
in developing a good relationship with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, one of Japan's premier
companies. Their United States maintenance and repair facility is at our Tulsa Airport. To
support it, they have recently moved their parts operation from Dallas to Tulsa. Mitsubishi is
also strongly considering development and manufacturing of a new 90 passenger regional jet
airplane. In similar fashion to all of our aviation/aerospace employers, the future for our
working relationship between Mitsubishi and Tulsa is rich. Victoria and I will be visiting their
headquarters in Japan early next year and we certainly will be promoting our ability to
participate with the MJR.
Where We've Been:
Looking into the future, we have to be mindful of our past - our history. When we were
struggling to balance the budget during the recession, we decided then and there not to be in
that position again, for both ourselves, as well as future administrations. We immediately
called KPMG officials asking them to help us create a plan - to determine the cost and size of a
strategic restructuring of government operations - not a restructuring of our form of
government. Because of the steps we took immediately, we are now much better prepared for
what may come.
What We Did:
KPMG identified 1,500 services that our government provides and gave us 1,100
recommendations. They advised us to get back to our core business. Other cities of a similar
size or larger had about half the number of services that our government provides.
Indianapolis, for example, had 890. Our government operations had grown too much and we
could no longer afford its size and scope.
We developed a plan to become more efficient, to cut costs and to enhance your core services
with increased revenues without raising taxes. Next, we needed to hear from the citizens - the
taxpayers. For the very first time, we surveyed our citizens. We asked them about their
priorities, and if we were meeting their expectations. Our survey of 1,800 households showed
that more than 70 percent were satisfied with living in Tulsa. Generally, a majority of those
surveyed said that the management of City government was on the right track, but that some
areas needed more attention - for example streets, economic development, and
neighborhoods - the latter requesting more emphasis on code enforcement and the removal of
abandoned structures.
We have identified approximately $30 million of real savings over the next five years, from our
animal welfare shelter to vehicle management. We are finding sensible ways to save money,
and we are just getting started. The generosity of the Tulsa Community Foundation to fund the
KPMG analysis, and the willingness of our employees to adapt are the reasons this effort is
becoming successful. This administration is very grateful to both.
Where We Are Now:
Because of the prudent and fiscally responsible steps that we have taken during my
administration, we had an extra $8 million generated from managed efficiencies and increased
revenue to address citizen priorities. For example, we restructured our streets department and
dedicated more resources for maintenance and repair of streets. We doubled mowing cycles on
city properties; we are holding police and fire academies; we put two graffiti crews back into
service and expanded resources for tearing down blighted abandoned structures.
Some may consider it a small item, but for the first time in eight years, next summer we will
fund our five municipal pools entirely from our general fund, eliminating the need to ask the
community for donations.
Today, we are listening to our customers. We are implementing improvements and the
economy has improved in Tulsa. I no longer hear comments from young people about moving
out of Tulsa. Just ask any of the 7,000 members of the Tulsa Young Professionals organization.
They're staying.
What Are We Doing to Keep Up This Momentum?
If you are looking for a theme today, the message is this: Tulsa has emerged stronger than
ever from a very severe economic crisis. Those challenges that tested our patience resulted in
a strengthening of our core and our commitment as a city to unite and meet the challenges
ahead as ONE Tulsa.
Tulsa's economic development and job creation potential are stronger than they've ever been.
Washington and Wall Street are worried about another economic recession, but we are in good
shape here with a better business climate than most cities of our size. While other people are
forecasting doom and gloom and a possible recession, we see economic opportunity in Tulsa.
We must and are taking advantage of it.
Here's proof: The Chamber reports that 40 Tulsa companies are expanding and 3,700 new jobs
are slated for creation, with 80 percent coming from existing companies in Tulsa. With our
Chamber and people like businessman Larry Mocha beating the financial drum for small
business development, how can we lose? If you want further proof, look at the article this
morning in the Tulsa World business section. According to the Brookings Institution, Tulsa is
among the 20 strongest metro areas based on its economic performance during the recovery
from the recession. The number of manufacturing jobs grew an impressive 3.2 percent for one
Part of that growth is attributed to the oil and gas industry. Tulsa, as you know, was for
decades, the Oil Capital of the World. I am staking the claim today that Tulsa is the Second
Century Energy city of this country. I recently unveiled my initiative, compliments of the
National Energy Policy Institute at the University of Tulsa, to build on our rich oil and natural
gas heritage and create jobs.
We must use the experience we have in Tulsa to expand our energy industry; one way is by
using our world class educational opportunities to focus and develop alternative energy forms.
In the end, the traditional Oil and Natural Gas Industry will find the best path to the most
efficient and affordable energy forms, which must include oil and natural gas.
To accomplish that, all manufacturing, exploration, production, service and processing
companies will participate and succeed. For example, we already have 20,000 people in the
Tulsa area working in energy manufacturing of drilling rigs, compressors, valves, switches,
engines, motors, pumps and pipeline pigs. Second Century Energy will bring together
experimentation and research at the university level with energy businesses in the unparalleled
creation of economic opportunity, jobs and entrepreneurial growth. It's new technology that's
driving our energy industries, and we have that technology here. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm
talking jobs.
When it comes to plans for Second Century Energy, we are leading by example. We are looking
at our use of traditional and alternative energy to save money. We've hired a consultant to
provide us with recommendations that I expect will include the installation of solar panels to
heat water at some of our facilities such as fire stations, community centers, and perhaps the
very building we are in, the Tulsa Convention Center. We have 2006 sales tax money to
implement the plan to reduce our energy costs. The conversation of our fleet to CNG is another
This year, we asked the Oklahoma Legislature to reward homebuilders and commercial
developers who make energy efficient improvements. The Legislature said yes. Now we are
developing a $4 million revolving loan program to use for that purpose. This will be a good
reason for the construction industry to consider the building of homes and businesses inside
the city limits of Tulsa.
River Development:
Last year, when I talked about river development, there was a standing ovation. I don't want
that enthusiasm to end. There is opportunity. Stop in at the Blue Rose any day or night of the
week. It's usually packed. Recently, some high level companies told us they were interested in
building on the river, but the timing to absorb new risk was not good because of the national
discussions about a second recession.
Our river is the crown jewel, so any development must be approached with careful
consideration. The economy slowed us down on our race for the river, but nothing has
changed. A unique opportunity for Tulsa lies on the banks of the Arkansas River.
In the meantime, I have encouraged the RiverParks Authority to attract more restaurants like
the Blue Rose. The 11 miles of river inside our city has terrific potential. The George Kaiser
Family Foundation has serious plans for more river trail and recreational improvements along
the river. We are in the process of moving some of our City operations from the west bank to
make room for new development. The present low water dam will be repaired in October and
we will once again see water in the river. The rowing clubs will be very happy.
Quality of Life:
When it comes to enjoying the outdoors, we are committed to keeping our City parks and golf
courses in good shape. Our Park and Recreation Board is taking the Parks Master Plan and
putting it to good use, upgrading our playgrounds and making them safe places for our children
to play.
That same commitment can be said for our streets. More than 700 lane miles across the city are
currently in design, under construction or in the process of being reconstructed. Obviously,
that's not news to anybody. But, the last thing we want to do is to ignore our street
maintenance and infrastructure systems.
We've been fortunate to have funding for state and city street and water projects, and it's a
challenge to coordinate at times. We hear the concerns loud and clear. Why is it taking so long?
Why are the orange cones up and there's nobody working? These are good questions. We are
calling for meetings with our engineers and construction companies to discuss how we can
better communicate daily street modifications, as well as our progress. As always, citizens can
call our Customer Care Center with questions on projects, and they will get answers, and they
will get action.
I have instructed Engineering Department Director Paul Zachary, our City Engineer, to prepare
for the next capital program. I look forward to working closely with the new City Council to
create the best package we can to take to our citizens.
We are progressing with PlaniTulsa, the city's first comprehensive plan in more than 30 years.
We received 51 applications for the open position of the Director of Planning and have
narrowed the list to the top candidates. We expect to have the position filled by the end of this
A firm has been recommended to update our zoning code as prescribed by PlaniTulsa, and that
should be well on the way by the time we have our new Planning Director on board.
The implementation of our PlaniTulsa comprehensive plan is too important for us to kick that
can down the road. After decades of neglecting these two important components of our city,
zoning and planning, I will not make the Planning Director decision until every possible avenue
has been explored from philosophy to experience. We want to look back on this decision and
know we fully examined every possible aspect of the process and our decision was sound. I'd
like to thank Dwain Midget in the Mayor's office for leading the effort.
Initiatives for the Future:
Tulsa will be the first city in the country to launch a summit on how cities can listen to their
wisest citizens and make sure that their children are carrying on their family legacies. Next
month, we will launch Across the Generations which proves we are committed to addressing all
the issues of an aging work population, as well as creating the environment where young
people want to stay, live, work, play and raise families. Strengthening those relationships is
important for a united community, especially for one that is as family friendly as ours.
Legislative Issues and Chamber Recognition:
Again, I'd like to recognize and thank Mike Neal, Gerry Clancy and the Tulsa Metro Chamber for
all it does - from raising millions of dollars for its Tulsa's Future campaign to attracting
convention and tourism business through Visit Tulsa. I can't fail to mention the great work the
Tulsa Sports Commission and the University of Tulsa did to make the NCAA Men's basketball
tournament a resounding success.
The consolidated regional effort to direct legislation through the One Voice initiative is also a
great example of inclusive leadership. As a result of that effort, the Legislature passed, at our
request, the Intermodal Transportation Act. That Act creates an Intermodal Transportation
District. We have wanted to be a hub for international commerce that ties together all forms of
transportation in a very coordinated fashion, and we've wanted it for a long time. Now, we
think we have a system that will do just that. Our intermodal district is one of the most
important systems for domestic and international commerce in Tulsa. From the Airport to the
Port, using rail service and highways, we are developing a coordinated transportation strategy.
It is often times of great uncertainty that weaknesses emerge and threaten the future of a
community. But it is the strength of a community that is on display when those weaknesses are
corrected. "Keep Calm and Carry On," a message on the coffee mugs that I bought for our
office originated in Great Britain during WWII. In a time of great turmoil, this message was
more than a reminder that better days are ahead. It was a blazing statement about the real
fiber of Great Britain. WE are carrying on - Tulsa! We are stronger together, as ONE Tulsa.
Keeping Calm - Carrying On. Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Mayor.