Ex-mayor Taylor seeks open seat on transit board
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Sunday, June 10, 2012
6/10/12 at 8:00 AM
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Former Mayor Kathy Taylor became inspired earlier this year living in Boston without a car.
Taylor, who was participating in a fellowship program at Harvard University from January through May, walked to a grocery store, carrying her purchases back home in a rolling cart, and went everywhere else by bus or subway.
"It was so easy and cheap," she said. "It also gave me a whole different view of the city because I wasn't so busy driving a car. I noticed a lot of things I wouldn't have otherwise."
Now Taylor wants to bring her passion home to serve on the Metropolitan Tulsa Transit Authority, which oversees the city's bus system.
"I've always believed this could work in Tulsa in a way that is easy, not just for people who have no other option but for everyone," she said.
"I'd love to be a part of helping make that happen."
But whether Taylor is allowed to serve is up to Mayor Dewey Bartlett, who must appoint her, and the City Council, which must confirm her.
There's one vacancy on the seven-member board, left by Phil Lakin in early December when he became a councilor.
Bartlett said Taylor would be someone with "a lot of experience to offer."
"I've had a lot of people contact me on her behalf," he said.
But, Bartlett said, he is leaning toward appointing a Hispanic.
"I want to make sure Hispanics are well represented," he said. "I think they have the potential to be big users of the bus system.
"I will talk to her about the possibility, however. We'll see where it ends up."
Bartlett said he is working to fill the slot as soon as possible but it doesn't worry him that it has been empty for six months.
"Sometimes it takes time to get these important positions filled," he said.
Taylor has advocates in Council Chairman G.T. Bynum and her city councilor, Blake Ewing.
"Frankly, I'm thankful someone like Kathy Taylor wants to serve," Bynum said. "She has a track record of hard work, intelligence and accomplishment in everything she has ever undertaken.
"The notion that she would want to focus those qualities on our transit system is something I think Tulsans should be excited about."
Ewing agreed, saying Taylor would bring a lot of innovative ideas about public transit to the table.
"Hers would be a fresh voice," he said. "She has my full support."
Bynum said he explored the idea of the council trying to make the appointment, along with ones for other city authorities, boards and commissions with vacancies.
In certain cases, the council is allowed to do that if the mayor has not filled a spot within 60 days.
But because the transit authority is a public trust, the council can't do that because of the wording of its trust indenture.
"Ultimately it's the mayor's appointment to make, not the council's," he said.
This situation speaks to a larger issue, however, of getting more former mayors into roles of continuing public service, Bynum said.
His grandfather, former Mayor Robert LaFortune, has served a long time on the Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust.
"We should be tapping into that experience more, I think," Bynum said.
Since her stint in Boston, Taylor has taken the bus in Tulsa occasionally to get a rider's perspective of the system.
Taylor has walked up from her home to the bus stop at 31st Street and Harvard Avenue and taken a bus into downtown.
She also recently participated in a Food Security Council experiment, taking the bus from Catholic Charities at Apache Street and Harvard Avenue to the Warehouse Market in north Tulsa with the money allocation a family gets to buy meals for four for a day.
Getting there took about 45 minutes because the bus went up to the airport before it finally arrived at the grocery store, Taylor said.
It was raining, and she had to make it in and out of the store with her groceries within an hour to catch the bus back.
"There were many on the bus who were doing the same routine," she said.
Among her concerns are the hour wait between buses and the lack of bus shelters in some areas.
"A lot of it is about the money allocated to the system, but I also know it's about prioritization of money," she said.
"A board's responsibility is visioning and oversight, not running. I get that. I just want to be one of the voices that can help and use the experience that I have, from the state and the city."
Taylor, in addition to serving as mayor, was the state secretary of commerce.
"I understand state and federal grants, I understand city finance, I understand the MTTA," she said. "It seems like a good fit.
"That being said, I'm very respectful that this is the mayor's decision with the council's approval. If they believe it's in the best interest of the city for me to serve, then I'm happy to do it."
Taylor said she understands if there are concerns of "political overtones."
"I still live in this city," she said. "I don't define myself as being a former mayor. I define myself as a public servant."
Original Print Headline: Taylor wants on transit board
Brian Barber 918-581-8322
Former Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor pays the fare as she boards a bus at the 31st Street and Harvard Avenue stop. Taylor went everywhere by bus or subway while at Harvard University from January through May. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World
Former Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor talks with Crystal Hall and her mother, Donna Hall, as they all wait for the 8:04 a.m. #210 bus at the 31st Street and Harvard Avenue stop in Tulsa. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World