Anna America Advocates Change
By EMILY RAMSEY
STRONG LEADERSHIP: Anna America, newly elected city councilor for District 7, stands outside of Union High School’s Union-Tuttle Stadium. Some of the issues America plans to tackle during her term in office include business growth, school support, increased district representation and public safety.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
Anna America decided to actively address issues where she lives in the greatest way possible: by running for District 7 city councilor, a position that she won in November, defeating incumbent Arianna Moore.
District 7’s northern boundary is 41st Street with occasional jogs to 31st Street and 51st Street, and it stretches south to 101st Street. Its east and west boundaries are Garnett Road and Memorial Drive, with occasional jogs to 129th East Avenue and Sheridan Road.
As she entered her first week as city councilor, America, who holds the position of affiliate director for Communities in Schools of Mid-America, Inc., already had a firm hold on her constituents’ and her personal concerns: business growth, school support, increased district representation and public safety.
“District 7 has a large number of retail corridors,” she says, citing Woodland Hills Mall, The Farm, “which is thriving,” 101st Street and Memorial Drive, and Fontana Shopping Center. “I think that people forget those retail corridors are what fund the city.”
For that reason, America has made it one of her aims to improve communication and collaboration between city officials and local businesses in her district, while also attracting new businesses to the area.
“We have a great entrepreneurial spirit in Tulsa, and in this district, we are family-centric and have strong residential support.
“I feel like entrepreneurial efforts can work well here.”
America also plans to encourage the formation of more merchant groups that provide businesses the opportunity to talk about what they need to succeed as a group, issues such as congestion around Woodland Hills Mall, which deters many shoppers and area residents, and increased city communication regarding road construction projects. “We need to understand that businesses and residents in those areas (of road construction) are our customers and that we don’t want to impede their businesses and lives anymore than we have to.”
The majority of District 7 encompasses Union Public Schools, with a few portions falling within Tulsa and Jenks Public Schools systems.
“Public schools are directly tied to the success of a city; if we don’t have good schools, we won’t have strong neighborhoods, economic development or a strong workforce,” she says.
Cities and school districts are made stronger, America believes, when they work together. America gives the example of sidewalks. “Currently, there is no safe way for students to walk to Union High School,” she says.
Communication between the school district and the City of Tulsa should start early, she believes, long before a sidewalk is actually constructed, by evaluating car and foot traffic during the early morning hours when students are walking to school “as opposed to the middle of the morning when nothing is going on,” she says.
“If the city is already putting in a sidewalk, let’s bring in the schools to help decide where that’s put in; let them be a part of the process,” which can create, in addition to an improved city-school relationship, cost savings.
Another area of focus for America is increasing representation of District 7 through resident involvement in boards and committees.
“We need voices from this part of town,” she says. “We can help determine how our neighborhoods grow and how we look as a city.”
For instance, the recent influx in apartment complexes, particularly at 81st Street and Mingo Road, has caused some residents to voice their concerns as to the proximity of apartments to nearby neighborhoods and increased traffic. “As the city continues to grow, we need to incorporate our growth to work with existing infrastructure.”
Additionally, the amount of money that District 7 will receive through the Improve our Tulsa capital improvement program ($35 million) was very small in comparison to other districts, something America thinks could have been possibly avoided if the district had more overall representation.
America hopes in 2015 to also see public safety throughout the city further addressed. She has heard from many area residents regarding their concern in the rise of neighborhood crimes, such as items being stolen out of vehicles, and their choice to visit Tulsa’s surrounding cities for shopping and other activities due to a stronger feeling of safety.
“If we’re not careful, we will lose people to Broken Arrow and other places where people feel safer,” America says.