Mayor G.T. Bynum will tell you that nothing he said during his 2016 campaign resonated more with the public than these 24 words: “A kid that is born in north Tulsa is expected to live 11 years less than a kid who is born in south Tulsa.”
Now, with the release of the Tulsa Equality Indicators, there are 54 more vexing issues of inequality Bynum plans to rally the community around.
“What this does is take that one statistic and blow that up by 54 items,” Bynum said last week.
For example, the city’s equality indicator — or score — for Race and Employment was just 38 out of 100, reflecting the fact that black Tulsans are nearly 2½ times more likely to be unemployed than white Tulsans.
The city’s score for Race and Officer Use of Force was 20 out of 100. The Equality Indicators report found that blacks are five times more likely to be victims of officer use of force than Hispanics, and whites are half as likely to experience use of force by police than blacks.
The Equality Indicators don’t deal only with race and inequality. They compare outcomes based on 10 factors, including age, gender, education levels and mode of transportation.
The city’s overall score was 38.93.
“It (the score) is very damning for our community,” Bynum said. “This is not what we want Tulsa to be.”
Tulsa was one of five cities selected by the 100 Resilient Cities program to participate in the Equality Indicators project. It is being funded through a $200,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.
The Equality Indicators program was established a few years ago by City University of New York’s Institute for State and Local Governance, and was later implemented as a pilot project in New York City. Joining Tulsa in establishing Equality Indicators programs are Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Oakland and Dallas.
“The goal is for this to be a multi-year deal so that we can track our progress,” Bynum said.
The city learned early last year that it had been selected for the program. It then reached out to residents across the city, often at public libraries, to hear their concerns about the state of the city and identify possible areas of inequality.
The city’s local partner in the Equality Indicators program is Community Service Council. After the city completed its outreach, CSC went to work gathering data to quantify the issues and concerns identified by residents. Community Service Council then worked with CUNY to analyze the numbers and come up with the city’s 54 indicators.
Devon Douglass, the city’s chief resilience officer, is leading the Equality Indicators program. She said that although the scores are important, she’s even more focused on the people who can help affect change, and those in need of help.
“While it’s good to look out into the future and say, ‘Man, we’re going to get a 100 one day,’ what I am most concerned with is, is the city and our partners … are we all looking at a number and saying this is an issue that we are going to rally around to change this number?” Douglass said. “I am more concerned with the people that are connected to these indicators than I am to the numbers themselves.”
Bynum describes the city’s Equality Indicators report, which will be updated every year, as step one in a two-step process. The second step comes this summer, when the city will unveil its Resilient Cities strategy to address a variety of issues.
“It (Equality Indicators) is a baseline for us,” the mayor said, “so that everything moving forward through the resilient strategy and other initiatives we have underway, we will be able to track what impact those things are having and the improvements we are making starting out from the baseline.”
Under Bynum, the city has focused on using data to identify and fix problems. Tulsans can already go online to track key performances indicators, such as employment, population and high school graduation rates, as part of the AIM plan.
The Equality Indicators, Bynum said, adds to the array of metrics by which the city’s progress, or lack thereof, can be measured.
“These are the types of things that people might have a gut feeling for but never knew the true, unvarnished, numbers-backed facts around it,” the mayor said. “I think this allows us to have a much more educated discussion about how we address these issues and what the solutions are, rather than having philosophical ones that are based on broad assumptions.”