By KATHY TAYLOR
STATE OF THE CITY: Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor addressed over 500 business, civic and elected leaders during her State of the City address at the Renaissance Tulsa Hotel and Convention Center Sept. 8.
DON SIBLEY, Tulsa Metro Chamber
As one of the greatest journeys in my life draws to a close, I want to say thank you to each citizen who helped our city, our region and our state move forward. It takes a team to make progress and despite the national economy, the team in this city, region and state has continued to have the energy to make a difference.
From the phenomenal success of the Center to successfully keeping the Drillers in Tulsa to nurturing new entrepreneurs who continue launching new ideas and building small business to leading our youth to safety and higher education through mentoring, and much more, Tulsa is a city on the move!
This community has risen to challenges, some linked to an unsteady economy, and continued to work hard to make life better in Tulsa. Members of our community are completing the vision—the comprehensive plan—for the city, to develop a road map for future development, which will be a road map for Tulsa’s future.
As I embark on a new mission with Gov. Brad Henry to complete important education initiatives, we are leaving a government that is more transparent and accountable to the citizens, and a progressive community that is strengthened through successful partnerships and collaboration.
It is my hope that we have communicated well to our neighborhoods, our youth, adults and seniors, veterans, park users and water customers alike. We expanded the City’s Internet presence to facilitate understanding of the City’s budget and the administration of grant programs. However, there is still much to do to continue increasing the transparency and accountability of government.
We have introduced new Web pages for street construction and
for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants.
At www.fixourstreetslive.com, Tulsans can see how the $451.6 million that voters approved last November is being spent to improve Tulsa’s streets. The tracking of grants can be found at www.cityoftulsa.org/recovery.
As I promised in my campaign, we had three priorities coming into the mayor’s office: Public Safety, Education and Economic Development.
Despite an economic downturn that has made it more difficult to fund programs and pay for salaries, equipment, materials and services, we have worked diligently in all three of those areas.
We have had both police and fire academies train new police officers and firefighters. We implemented the CompStat program to allow better crime-fighting tools.
CompStat is a tried and proven concept that was first created by the New York City Police Department and has been adopted and expanded by many other urban police departments. It incorporates modern communications technology to recognize developing crime trends and react to them.
Even though education has not traditionally been a responsibility of the Tulsa Mayor’s office, my staff and I have worked closely with Tulsa Public Schools and other local school districts, as well as , OU, , Langston and others to improve educational opportunities for Tulsans.
We have merged Public Safety and Education in many of our initiatives and programs, including anti-gang initiatives, mentoring programs for disadvantaged youths and similar efforts to break the “Cradle to Prison” cycle that impacts young people in our community.
Education and Economic Development are also tied together in many ways. In the last three years we have seen an expansion of educational opportunities in Tulsa and the launch of the Tulsa Achieves program at , enabling many deserving Tulsa County high school students to earn an associate degree or half of a bachelor’s degree requirement, virtually for free. Thousands of recent local high school graduates are taking advantage of that program to get a college education at minimal cost.
We recently announced the tuition assistance for City of Tulsa employees. Thanks to the cooperation of -Tulsa and OU-Tulsa, employees can now get up to 50 percent discounts on tuition for classes.
We have worked with numerous employers, both small start-up businesses, expanding small businesses and with major employers like American Airlines and others, both to preserve existing jobs and add new jobs in the local economy.
Our neighborhoods are better and safer places to live when there is a sense of caring in the community. The City of Tulsa’s Working in Neighborhoods () department collaborates with area residents, neighborhood associations and community leaders to provide citizen-based solutions to neighborhood concerns. However, success doesn’t just happen – it takes every neighborhood doing its part to turn our visions for Tulsa into reality. Visit www.tulsaneighbors.com for information on how to improve our neighborhoods.
We have watched with excitement through the past few months as a beautiful new baseball stadium and event facility has taken shape adjacent to both the historic Greenwood District and the Tulsa campus. ONEOK Field, the new home of the Tulsa Drillers, is more than just a ballpark. It may also be a catalyst to speed the metamorphosis of what has been a decaying and under-utilized part of Tulsa into a vital entertainment and dining district that can entertain Tulsans and bring in visitors from elsewhere.
It has been a busy time in office. While I will be moving on to my new responsibilities on the cabinet of Gov. Brad Henry soon, until Dec. 7 I’ve still got my sleeves rolled up and will continue working on initiatives, operating the city smoothly, and delivering services efficiently despite a reduced but balanced budget.
Thank you for allowing me the great privilege of serving as your Mayor.
I Believe in Tulsa!
Editor’s Note: This is Mayor Taylor’s final column in the Newspapers as Tulsa’s mayor. Look for a new column by Kathy Taylor on education in the January Newspapers, when she will serve Oklahoma as Governor Henry’s Chief of Education Strategy and Initiative.