Tulsa Councilor's Travel Request Denied, Sparking Broader Debates

Aug 10, 2018

Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tulsa city councilors denied travel costs for a councilor to attend a conference on civilian oversight of law enforcement, but discussion of the matter spread to bigger issues.

The 7–1 vote on the request followed guidance from the ethics commission and city attorney, which said Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper’s marriage to a police officer created a conflict of interest.

Laura Bellis with The United League for Social Action said as north Tulsa’s representative in city government, Hall-Harper is the best choice.

"No one is as uniquely positioned to attend and learn this information as the person representing our most overpoliced community," Bellis said.

Christy Williams said black Tulsans are disproportionately policed, and Hall-Harper is the best person to help improve things.

"And you’re worried about lawsuits. We’re worried about dying. I want to see my son grow up to be a man and to do better in this city and to make the city even better," Williams said before quoting James Baldwin. "To be negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time."

Opposing District One council candidate Jerry Goodwin said a consultant could make the trip.

"But having a city councilor go to an event with no accountability in terms of how that information’s going to benefit either law enforcement or to other parties that she may represent I think is totally inappropriate," Goodwin said.

Councilor Blake Ewing, who was the lone vote in favor of the travel request, excoriated Goodwin for taking time for public comment for politics.

"You would not be here if you weren’t running against this councilor for office. That’s all that needs to be said," Ewing said.

Hall-Harper still plans to attend the conference.