Challengers press 2 incumbents
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 07, 2011
9/07/11 at 8:33 AM
Read more about the City Council candidates.
District 1 Councilor Jack Henderson and District 5 Councilor Chris Trail fended off criticism and calls for change from their election opponents during a forum Tuesday.
Both of the incumbents' races will be decided in the Sept. 13 primary because no candidates from opposing political parties filed.
Henderson is competing against fellow Democrats Twan Jones and Jason Trent II for a one-year term, while Trail is battling fellow Republicans Karen Gilbert and Sam Roop for a two-year term.
Jones, 40, a consultant, said north Tulsa can't afford another year like the last seven, during which Henderson has been the area's city councilor.
"Under the leadership and representation of Jack Henderson, District 1 has watched, one by one, our grocery stores close or move out of our district, leaving us without a grocery store for over a year," he said.
The district's population also has decreased, some precincts have asked to be put into a new district for better representation, and violent crime in the area has shot up, Jones said.
"And we've been asked to support Jack Henderson as he wanted a salary increase from $18,000 to $60,000 while not having a plan of direction for District 1," he said.
Trent, 45, a Holiday Inn Express employee, said the current city councilors have spent too much time fighting with the mayor.
In the meantime, many residents of District 1 have been victims of violence, he said, reading a list of names, ending with that of his teenage son, who was shot to death in 2009.
"As of today, (so far this year) there have been 13 homicides in District 1," Trent said, "all while our city councilor has not said a word."
Police and community relations are at an all-time low, and schools in the district have been shuttered, he said.
If elected, Trent said, he would work to be part of a unified city government to address these problems.
Henderson fought back against his opponents, saying crime in District 1 isn't the highest in the city.
Henderson added that he's been a champion of the city's park system, including pools and recreation centers, to give young people places to go and stay out of trouble.
He said he was a vocal opponent of closing schools in the district and was the first councilor to speak out against Project Schoolhouse, Tulsa Public Schools' consolidation and reorganization effort.
Henderson also defended his seeking more pay for being a councilor.
"It's a full-time job with part-time pay," he said. "The pay does need to be looked at. I don't do it for the pay, but in order to attract a certain caliber of people to these positions, ... I guarantee you, if you raise the salary, you raise what you get."
Henderson pledged to be a voice that District 1 can always count on.
"What our district needs is somebody with the dedication, loyalty and leadership that I provide," he said.
The bickering at City Hall was a hot topic for the candidates in east Tulsa's District 5.
Roop, a former councilor, said he was encouraged by residents to try to reclaim his seat.
"I want to have the opportunity to maybe correct some things going on in City Hall right now, especially the communication - both ways and in all directions," he said.
Gilbert, a Tulsa Public Schools employee, said she would establish a good working relationship with the mayor.
She said she decided to run as a concerned Tulsan.
"I'm an avid runner. ... I run 4 to 4 1/2 miles every single morning, maybe take one day off," she said.
"I am a dedicated person. So if I have a cause, I am there for it. I make sure things happen. If elected, I am there to listen to people and make action happen."
Trail, who has been in office since 2009, said that even though conflicts between the mayor and the council have grabbed the headlines, progress is still being made in city government.
"When we all get along, it's not news," he said.
"But when we disagree, that's news. It's like all of the planes that land every day. They don't make the news. But when one crashes, it makes the news."
The forum was held in the lobby of downtown's Atlas Life Building and hosted by the Tulsa Press Club and Tulsa Community College.
Brian Barber 918-581-8322
District 1 City Councilor Jack Henderson speaks as challengers Twan Jones (left) and Jason Trent II listen during a forum Tuesday. The two challengers attacked the district's crime rate under Henderson's watch. CORY YOUNG/ Tulsa World
District 5 City Councilor Chris Trail (left) and challengers Sam Roop and Karen Gilbert field questions during a forum in the lobby of the Atlas Life Building on Tuesday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World