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Bynum Appoints Chief Resilience Officer to Focus on City's Racial Disparities

Matt Trotter

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum announced his appointment for chief resilience officer Friday and said her efforts will focus on addressing racial disparities within the city.

DeVon Douglass comes into the Rockefeller Foundation–funded position from the Oklahoma Policy Institute. She said even if a focus on race seems political, developing a plan for Tulsa to have good and equitable transportation systems, education and health care access is a nonpartisan task.

"Party lines have nothing to do with making sure that people are taken care of in this city," Douglass said. "That's the greatest legacy of OK Policy."

In 2015, the city joined The Rockefeller Foundation's 100 Resilient Cities partnership, a global network participants can call on to help their cities plan for a vast array of potential challenges. Bynum said when it comes to scenarios like a natural disaster, Tulsa has access to good local and state resources.

"But when it comes to dealing with issues of racial disparity, we need help," Bynum said. "We've been trying to deal with them for 100 years and haven't done so successfully. The numbers bear that out."

Douglass anticipates some pushback for the focus on racial disparities but said she’s prepared.

"If people of color — black, Latino, Native American — if we don't do well, and we're making up a greater portion of America ... , then America's not doing well, because we're a part of America," Douglass said. "We're a part of Tulsa. So, if we don't do well, Tulsa's not doing well, and that's key. And I think that Tulsans can get behind that."

Douglass will lead the creation of Tulsa’s resiliency strategy when she officially starts as chief resilience officer on Jan. 3. Priority areas determined through surveys and meetings over the past year are mobility and transit, social stability, security and justice, and public health.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.