Tulsa City Council breaks with tradition, consolidates workdays
BY P.J. LASSEK World Staff Writer
Thursday, December 15, 2011
The City Council voted 6-2 Thursday to move its committee meetings from Tuesdays to Thursdays, despite Councilor Jack Henderson’s suggestion that the change be postponed for six months to allow the new councilors to first learn the job.
“Let’s not forget, you did run for the seat; the seat didn’t run for you,” Henderson said. “In other words, you need to think about changing your schedule to meet the demands of the council’s job position.”
Henderson and Councilor Jeannie Cue voted against the measure after the attempt to postpone the measure failed. Councilor David Patrick was absent.
Henderson said the 2-week-old council, which has six new members, has had only one discussion about changing a 20-year-old custom in order to “cut down on the number of days” councilors have to work.
He said the job takes a lot of time and that constituents expect the councilors to put that time into the job.
“It’s not a part-time job,” he said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t mess with it.”
Council Chairman G.T. Bynum sponsored the change, which will move the council committee meetings to Thursday afternoon before the council’s 6 p.m. regular meetings. The committee meetings traditionally have been held on Tuesday mornings and often run through noon.
Bynum said the same amount of work will be done, but just on one day instead of two. That will allow more working-class people to serve as councilors in the future without having to miss too many days of work, he said.
“Let’s try it out, see if it works, and if it does, that’s going to benefit future councils,” Bynum said. “If it’s a colossal failure, we can always go back to what we’ve been doing.”
Shortly after this form of city government was enacted in Tulsa in 1990, the council began holding at least two standing committee meetings on Tuesday — Public Works at 8 a.m. and Urban Development at 10 a.m.
The meetings were established to allow councilors to discuss issues at length, leaving the Thursday night council meeting for minimal discussion before taking action. Before committee meetings were held, the 6 p.m. council meetings often lasted until midnight or later.
Henderson pointed out that Bynum wasn’t in favor of breaking tradition when it came to how the council chairman was selected. A recent unsuccessful behind-the-scenes attempt to veer from that custom could have prevented Bynum, who was next in line, from getting the chairman post.
“I see we worked that one out,” Henderson said.
“Was some kind of a deal made at a meeting where I didn’t get the memo?” Henderson asked, referring to the change in meeting days.
Councilor Thomas Mansur said the intent is not to “cram something down anyone’s throats.”
However, he said, “the council gets paid to make choices, and if you don’t have choices and simply do things as a matter of custom, then that is not a choice. So let’s have some choices out there.”