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City councilors, panelists dig into Equality Indicators data on juvenile justice and race

Wednesday night’s special City Council meeting on equality indicators for juvenile justice and race might have been moved to a theater, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was good theater.

“I appreciate the effort; I really do,” said state Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, referring to the public discussion involving all nine city councilors and six panelists on the stage of the John Williams Theater in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. “Any time you have a chance for honest dialogue, it’s a plus.”

But after more than three hours of data points and policy discussion, even Goodwin said, “This is so cerebral. Where’s the action to back it up?”

The event, with an audience of about 100, involved the panelists speaking and taking questions from the councilors on juvenile justice and how the Tulsa Police Department can improve relations with at-risk youth.

According to the 2019 Equality Indicators report, African American youths in Tulsa are 3.3 times more likely to be arrested than white youths.

Several council members and panelists expressed skepticism that the disparity is justified.

Two senior TPD officers on the panel said the department is doing its best to build trust within minority communities and has instituted policies and procedures to deal with issues such as implicit bias and community awareness.

Deputy Chief Eric Dalgleish said the department is constantly looking for ways to interact with at-risk youth in nonenforcement situations. He cited several programs, including the Police Activities League, and said the department has logged 8,200 youth contacts in the past year.

But he and Officer Jesse Guardiola, who oversees TPD’s Hispanic Outreach Program, acknowledged that building relationships can be a slow and delicate task.

“It takes seven positive contacts to erase one negative one,” said Guardiola.

Gregory Robinson, director of MetCares Foundation Community Outreach, said the programs Dalgleish mentioned are good ones but aren’t enough.

“Any time police officers take time to be in front of kids in a nonthreatening setting, that’s going to lead to positive outcomes,” Robinson said, but he added that he believes the police could be more “aggressive” in exploiting situations to interact with minority communities.

“I think it is critical that the police, when they are given opportunities by the community to come out and bond around solutions, they take advantage of that,” Robinson said.

“Over these past several years there have been several opportunities for police officers or police leadership, to be quite frank, to come out and engage with the community, not just on solutions for juveniles but solutions in general.”

Other panelists Wednesday were retired Tulsa County District Judge Doris Fransein, Tulsa County Juvenile Detention Home Superintendent Alondo Edwards and Community Service Council Research Director Melanie Poulter.

Thursday’s meeting was the first of four planned to examine law enforcement data collected for the Equality Indicators. The next is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. July 17 at the PAC.

Featured video

Tulsa City Councilors offered a forum recently on the Equality Indicators report, which uses 54 equality measures that compare outcomes of groups likely to experience inequalities.

Read the story: 'We have to realize we're one city': Discussion on Equality Indicators offers chance at dialogue

Fiery Democratic debate: Race, age, health care and Trump

MIAMI — Democratic divisions over race, age and ideology surged into public view Thursday night as the party’s leading presidential contenders faced off in a fiery debate over who is best positioned to take on President Donald Trump.

The Democratic Party’s early front-runner, 76-year-old former Vice President Joe Biden, was forced to defend his record on race in the face of tough questions from California Sen. Kamala Harris, the only African American on stage. That was only after he defended his age after jabs from one of two millennial candidates in the prime-time clash.

“I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris said, though she described Biden’s record of working with Republican segregationist senators on nonrace issues as “hurtful.”

Clearly on defense, Biden called the Harris attack “a complete mischaracterization of my record.” He declared, “I ran because of civil rights.”

The debate marked an abrupt turning point in a Democratic primary in which candidates have largely tiptoed around each other, focusing instead on their shared desire to beat Trump. But the debate revealed just how deep the fissures are within the Democratic Party eight months before primary voting begins.

Thursday’s debate and the one a night earlier gave millions of Americans their first peek inside the Democrats’ unruly 2020 season.

The showdown featured four of the five strongest candidates — according to early polls, at least. Those are Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg of Indiana and Harris. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who debated Wednesday night, is the fifth.

So many candidates are lining up to take on Trump that they do not all fit on one debate stage — or even two. Twenty Democrats debated on national television this week in two waves of 10, while a handful more were left out altogether.

The level of diversity on display was unprecedented for a major political party in the United States. The field features six women, two African Americans, one Asian American and two men under 40, one of them openly gay.

Yet in the early days of the campaign, two white septuagenarians are leading the polls: Biden and Sanders.

Thursday’s slate of candidates — and the debate itself — highlighted the unprecedented diversity of the Democratic Party’s 2020 class.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a 37-year-old gay former military officer, is four decades younger than Sanders and has been framing his candidacy as a call for generational change in his party. Harris is the only African American woman to qualify for the presidential debate stage. Any of the three women featured Thursday night would be the first ever elected president.

Buttigieg faced tough questions about a racially charged recent police shooting in his city in which a white officer shot and killed a black man, Eric Logan.

Buttigieg said an investigation was underway, and he acknowledged the underlying racial tensions in his city and others. “It’s a mess,” he said plainly. “And we’re hurting.”

One of the lesser-known candidates on stage, California Rep Eric Swalwell, called on Buttigieg to fire his police chief, even though the investigation was only beginning.

Swalwell also took a swipe at Biden’s advanced age. Either Biden or Sanders would be the oldest president ever elected.

“Joe Biden was right when he said it was time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans 32 years ago,” Swalwell jabbed.

Biden responded: “I’m still holding onto that torch.”

The party’s broader fight over ideology played a back seat at times to the racial and generational divisions. But calls to embrace dramatic change on immigration, health care and the environment were not forgotten.

Sanders slapped at his party’s centrist candidates, vowing to fight for “real change.”

Biden downplayed his establishment leanings. For example, the former vice president, along with the other candidates on stage, raised his hand to say his health care plan would provide coverage for immigrants in the country illegally.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper predicted that an aggressive lurch to the left on key policies would ultimately hurt Democrats’ quest to defeat Trump.

“If we don’t clearly define we are not socialists, the Republicans are going to come at us every way they can and call us socialists,” he warned.

Others on the stage Thursday night included Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Michael Bennet of Colorado, New York businessman Andrew Yang and author and social activist Marianne Williamson.

The showdown played out in Florida, a general election battleground that could well determine whether Trump wins a second term next year.

Biden sought to sidestep the intraparty divisions altogether, training his venom on Trump.

“Donald Trump thinks Wall Street built America. Ordinary middle-class Americans built America,” said the former vice president. He added: “Donald Trump has put us in a horrible situation. We do have enormous income inequality.”

Biden’s strategy is designed to highlight his status as the front-runner, and as such, the Democrat best positioned to take down the president at the ballot box. Above any policy disagreement, Democratic voters report that nothing matters more than finding a candidate who can beat Trump.

Their first round of debates is finished, but the real struggle is just beginning for most of the candidates.

All will work aggressively to leverage their debate performance and the related media attention to their advantage in the coming days. There is a real sense of urgency for more than a dozen candidates who fear they may not reach donor and polling thresholds to qualify for subsequent debates.

Should they fail to qualify, and many will fail, this week’s debates may have marked the high point for their personal presidential ambitions.

Councilors see revised Improve Our Tulsa plan; town hall meetings to precede likely November vote

A revised proposal that would address Tulsa’s streets and other major capital needs received its first official viewing by the Tulsa City Council on Wednesday afternoon.

Based on input from residents at town hall meetings, Mayor G.T. Bynum revised his previous Improve Our Tulsa renewal proposal and presented the new version to city councilors at a budget committee meeting at City Hall.

The proposed 6½-year, $639 million renewal would be an extension of the $918 million Improve Our Tulsa package approved by voters in 2013.

“It’s comparatively much smaller than the (2013 package), but I believe it’s the right balance of projects to work on,” Bynum said.

Councilors will discuss the renewal proposal further at a July 10 budget meeting before deciding on a final draft July 17 to take to residents in more town hall meetings later in July.

The final package should be determined Aug. 7, with an election expected to be set then for Nov. 12.

Earlier this year, Bynum proposed a 6-year, $597 million Improve Our Tulsa renewal. After five public meetings to get feedback from residents, the proposal was revised, with the amount upped to $639 million.

One of the revisions from the earlier proposal calls for giving each of the city’s nine council districts $1 million to spend on a capital project, or projects, of its choosing.

Of the overall proposal, 70% — $448 million — is dedicated to transportation and streets, and includes improvements citywide to streets, bridges, and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

Bynum said the city, thanks to voter support of the 2013 Improve Our Tulsa, has made “critical progress in rehabilitating our roads after decades of neglect, but there is much more work to do. In order to continue making progress, we need to renew this program.”

The other $191 million would go to various capital needs.

Included are improvements to city facilities such as City Hall, Tulsa Zoo, Gilcrease Museum and the Greenwood Cultural Center, along with various parks and the Tulsa Police and Fire departments.

A city equipment study accounts for another $50 million, while $19 million would go to the city’s Rainy Day Fund.

As for the district-specific funds, they must go toward a project that serves a public purpose and meets criteria set by the city. Each of these “Community Development Priority Projects” would be subject to City Council approval, Bynum said.

Jeannie Cue, District 2 councilor, said of the mayor’s proposed renewal: “I think it’s a good package, and (represents) important things that we’ve learned over the years that will make our city better. ... It touches on a lot of different aspects.”

Items added since town hall meetings include more funding for bridges, funding to leverage state and federal funds for local infrastructure projects, and money to begin implementing the Arena District Master Plan, and for infrastructure, including buses and bus stations, along the Route 66 Bus Rapid Transit route.

About two-thirds of the renewal’s funding would come from bond sales, financed with property taxes, and a third in sales tax. The proposal does not call for tax increases.

The renewal would begin in fiscal year 2020 and end midway through fiscal year 2026, which is the end of December 2025.

Featured video

Tulsa City Councilors offered a forum recently on the Equality Indicators report, which uses 54 equality measures that compare outcomes of groups likely to experience inequalities.

Read the story: 'We have to realize we're one city': Discussion on Equality Indicators offers chance at dialogue

Study shows Muscogee (Creek) Nation has $1 billion-plus national economic impact

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation supports 8,700 jobs and contributes more than $1.4 billion a year to the national economy, according to the tribe’s first-ever large scale economic impact study, released Wednesday morning.

In Oklahoma alone, the tribe’s economic impact in 2017 reached $866 million, including $12 million provided to state and local education programs and $7.6 million for roads, bridges and other infrastructure, the tribe said.

“The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is thriving,” said Principal Chief James Floyd. “We’re undoubtedly an important part of the greater economy.”

The economic impact included 120,000 patient visits to tribal clinics and $8.4 million in college scholarships, according to the study, which was conducted by an outside group led by an economist from Oklahoma City University.

Tulsa’s River Spirit casino and resort, along with other gaming locations, play a big part in the tribe’s economic impact. River Spirit alone employs 1,200 people, officials said.

But twice as many people work at the tribe’s headquarters in Okmulgee, demonstrating how the Creeks’ economic impact extends far beyond gaming, said Lucian Tiger, speaker of the tribe’s National Council.

“We’re contributing greatly to the entire economy of Oklahoma,” Tiger said. “And not just the state of Oklahoma, but the city of Tulsa. (Tribal) citizens and non-citizens alike are benefiting from what we do.”

The study looked at economic numbers from 2017, the most recent year with complete data available. While this was the first economic impact study of its kind for the tribe, it will become an annual practice, officials said.

The Cherokee Nation, the country’s largest tribe, reported an economic impact of $2.2 billion in northeast Oklahoma in 2018.

Economist Kyle Dean, who leads the Economic Impact Group that conducted the Creek study, compared the tribe’s impact on the local economy to a global corporation’s, such as Amazon’s.

Dozens of cities, including Tulsa, competed in 2017 to lure Amazon’s “second headquarters” with millions of dollars in tax incentives. Arlington, Virginia, successfully bid $573 million based on the expectation that the company would create 25,000 jobs there.

“How much would Oklahoma be willing to pay for a $866 million impact?” Dean asked. “How much would Tulsa be willing to offer?

But the Creek Nation, economically speaking, is a better asset than any corporate headquarters, Dean said. The tribe needs no tax incentive to invest in Oklahoma and can never relocate if another state offers a better deal, he said.

“It’s going to make a huge contribution to the state’s economy year after year, forever, and nobody can take it away,” he said. “There’s no way I can calculate what that is worth to the state.”