City of Tulsa officials took their oaths of office Monday on an inauguration day with limited attendance because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor G.T. Bynum’s uncle, Judge William LaFortune, administered his oath in Bynum’s office. It was broadcast online. After the two bumped elbows, Bynum gave a short speech calling on Tulsans to overcome divisive forces, especially as the city approaches the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre centennial.
"Division, hatred of ‘them,’ insistence on seeing the worst in people with whom we disagree these have all led historically to loss and regret and shame for our city," Bynum said.
Bynum asked Tulsans not to look at themselves as Democrat or Republican, Black or white, old Tulsans or new Tulsans.
"We’re a city of families, of neighbors. Just people trying to work together to build a better life for the people that we love. We can do more for them by working together. And in the next four years, we will," Bynum said.
City councilors were also sworn in Monday in a distanced ceremony in the council chambers, with seven returning councilors and newcomers Mykey Arthrell in District 5 and Jayme Fowler in District 9.
Re-elected District 1 Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper is the new council chair. She said Tulsa has the people in place needed to make it a world-class city.
"However, we lack the righteous indignation to dismantle this system of white supremacy and to move policy forward that will create a world-class city by creating opportunities for the disenfranchised who live throughout Tulsa. We should have the righteous indignation to revitalize Greenwood and Black Wall Street, and put it back in the hands of the Black people whose ancestors built it 100 years ago," Hall-Harper said.
Hall-Harper is calling for the council to do more heavy lifting in fixing disparities identified in the city’s annual Equality Indicators report and wants to see two years of what she referred to as "freedom work."
"Today in 2020, racial segregation — de facto — discriminatory policies and structural racism are still hurting Black Tulsans disproportionately and those who live in north and west Tulsa, which has resulted in very few opportunities and a lower quality of life. I realize that this topic is uncomfortable for some, but the data is clear," Hall-Harper said.
Hall-Harper is the first Black woman elected council chair. Councilor Lori Decter Wright was elected council vice chair. It’s the first time women have held both council leadership positions.
City Auditor Cathy Carter was also sworn in Monday.