We liked Mayor G.T. Bynum’s “State of the City” speech to the Tulsa Regional Chamber last week.
It was an upbeat evaluation of the things that have been done during his time as mayor, from the hiring of more police officers to the city’s rapid transit future.
If Bynum’s tone was rosy, it might be related to Tuesday’s passage of the Improve Our Tulsa tax extension package. The three parts of the tax package passed with historic margins of 85%, 82% and 79%. While Tulsans were voting for what was in the packages — better streets, in particular — it’s hard not to see an expression of trust and approval of the city’s direction in those numbers.
Tulsa’s greatest looming challenge — the quality and perception of local public schools — is outside the normal portfolio of municipal government. But if young families aren’t willing to put their children in Tulsa’s schools, the city’s future is bleak.
We would have liked to have heard more on that issue Thursday. In his speech, Bynum referred to his new leadership role with Impact Tulsa, the data-driven coalition of educators, business leaders and philanthropists to improve key local student outcomes, and said he is “excited for us to be a better partner with local educators.” We urge him to take this opportunity to be a relentless and public advocate for education funding and quality. There can be no more urgent priority for the city.
Throughout his speech, Bynum continued to push the city toward an inclusive agenda, including his efforts to remove barriers to the path of citizenship for legal immigrants, the city’s search for mass graves from the 1921 race massacre and to address the economic and health disparities between south and north Tulsa.
Bynum said he was infuriated at the thought that the “bad guys” who burned the Greenwood District in 1921 did so to destroy black prosperity, and it worked. The city and its business community still have an opportunity to change that, he said.
“We can still beat the bad guys 100 years later,” he said.
In his conclusion, Bynum said that the state of our city is strong, and we agree. No major city is without its challenges, but we agree with Bynum’s positive picture of a city that has done great things in the past, but whose best days lie ahead.