A reality TV show about illegal street racing, in reality, needs a city permit.
“Street Outlaws,” from the Discovery Channel, is about would-be illegal drag racers competing to be known as the fastest in Oklahoma.
The thing is: It’s not so much illegal, like the show’s title suggests.
The Tulsa City Council was asked Thursday to vote on a permit to allow the show to operate on Tulsa roads this weekend with off-duty Tulsa police officers looking on and blocking public streets.
Councilor Skip Steele equated the permit of the event to the council’s giving permission for graffiti artists to vandalize city property for the financial gain of a TV show.
Steele said the premise of the show — to be operating outside the law — is backward from the reality of the situation.
“There’s a lot of things in reality TV that are not reality, but it just makes the city of Tulsa look bad to promote something illegal,” Steele said. “I think it’s fundamentally wrong to permit an activity that’s wrong.”
Tulsa has hosted the event before — passing through the council without notice and also apparently drag racing through Tulsa without notice. The previous event was July 1 at the same location.
The event permit requests that about a mile of Port Road, north of Tulsa International Airport between Sheridan and Mingo roads, be partially and at times fully closed for filming from 3 p.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Sunday.
The City Council approved the permit 7-1, with Steele casting the lone no vote. Councilor David Patrick, in whose district the event will be staged, was absent.
The permit requests five off-duty police officers, an EMSA emergency vehicle with paramedics and a fire truck “with jaws of life and personnel.” The production organization is paying for all city employees, as well as for a line of concrete barriers to be placed along the roadway for safety.
Steele said he is worried about liability for the city if the council condones what could be a dangerous activity and would otherwise be illegal.
“It’s all based on the premise of illegal driving,” he said.
Bynum said a city permit comes with the assumption that an event is insured and that the city would not be held liable.
“We’re not condoning illegal activity or inviting it,” Bynum said.
The serious conversation gave way to comedic representations from councilors, who said they support illegal drag racing.
“I think being on TV is awesome,” Councilor Blake Ewing said. “I’m all for supporting illegal drag racing on the city streets of Tulsa.”
Bynum said the reality TV show would be the same thing as a film crew shooting a cowboy Western or a zombie movie.
“We’re not inviting or condoning the living dead running the streets of Tulsa,” Bynum said.