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Longer terms, confirmation power among the charter amendments Tulsa city councilors are considering

tulsa city hall from across the street
Matt Trotter

Tulsa city councilors have started discussing charter amendments they’d like placed on the ballot in the next municipal election, and some would grant the council additional powers.

Their discussion last week centered on the theme of citizens’ expectations of councilors and how those aren’t being met in some areas.

Longer terms are among the proposals councilors are considering. District 3 Councilor Crista Patrick said two-year terms make it hard to do anything other than feel like you’re gearing up for the next election.

"Your first year is pretty much learning, and then by the time you learn maybe more of what to do or begin more to feel like you have a grasp, then your term is over," Patrick said.

Voters have changed council term lengths several times in the past decade, and councilors serve their terms concurrently. District 6 Councilor Connie Dodson said she’d like to see four-year terms staggered with the mayor’s, primarily because big funding packages seem to be on four-year or longer cycles.

"And the opportunities to work on those funding packages aren’t there with the shorter terms. And when you’re doing it opposite the mayor every four years, then you’re not changing everybody as far as legislative and administrative at the same time," Dodson said.

Another proposal on the table is to have the council confirm department heads appointed by the mayor. District 7 Councilor Lori Decter Wright said some of her constituents have been surprised to learn the council has no say over who’s in charge of parks, water and sewer, and other divisions.

"We come and go, but these folks stay decades, right? And sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes that’s not a good thing. So, if you’re making a decision that’s going to go beyond any of our tenure for the city, maybe having more input to that is a good thing," Decter Wright said.

The council gained power to confirm the city attorney through an August 2020 charter amendment approved by voters.

Councilors are interested in being able to initiate budget amendments and pass their own resolutions. The mayor must sign council resolutions.

District 5 Councilor Mykey Arthrell-Knezek said the mayor and council are separate branches of local government, executive and legislative.

"That makes a lot of sense in my head, of like, ‘Oh, yeah. Like, a resolution’s a policy position, not an executive function of government.’ And so, I wondered why is it that we have to have an executive sign something that’s purely legislative?" Arthrell-Knezek said.

Councilors are also looking into extending the residency requirement for candidates from 90 days to 365.

Additional steps are required before any council-proposed charter amendments are placed on the next municipal general election ballot in August 2022.

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.