Listen to this article here
Tulsa City Council Meeting Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Healthy Neighborhoods Ordinance Passes 5 to 3
By Nehemiah D. Frank
A Win For Tulsa
Last Wednesday, Tulsa city councilors showed that T-Town can be more than a tale of two cities.
Once a frozen town to yesterday’s ignorance, Tulsa is now a forward-thinking city that can demonstrate political inclusion by listening to the concerns of its African-American residents.
The councilors who voted for the Healthy Neighborhoods Overlay exemplified they are willing to respect and vote in the interest of what the majority of north Tulsans requested, which is the right to — what Sherry Laskey calls — ‘food sovereignty.’
But, why is this important?
Last week, Tulsa’s first annual equality report — prepared by the Community Service Council in partnership with the City of Tulsa — that revealed inequalities within the city.
For the Political Empowerment indicator, Tulsa received a 44.67 out of 100, a failing score.
However the Healthy Neighborhoods Overlay vote shows that the city’s political powers are willing to listen and even vote in the interest of their constituents, voters who have often felt marginalized.
Tulsa Still Has A Long Way To Go
Vanessa Hall-Harper raised her concerns at Wednesday’s City council meeting about the lack of diversity on the city boards, specifically the Tulsa Metro Area Planning Commission.
The Equality Report states “City of Tulsa Authorities, Boards, and Commissions (ABCs) are volunteer citizen committees that work to create policies and develop programs.”
African Americans are disproportionately underrepresented in positions of authority and leadership, as well as Native Americans and Latinos — with Latinos being the least represented group in Tulsa’s government.
And, the report further expressed “minority representation on these committees could assist in developing policies and programs that serve the interests of Tulsa’s diverse community.”
City Councilors Blake Ewing and Vanessa Hall-Harper, along with citizens from across the city, vocalized their disdain for the Tulsa Metro Area Planning Commissioners’ ( Michael Covey, Mike Fretz, and John Dix) negative criticisms and harmful stigmatization of the north Tulsa community, and believe the TMAP Commissioners’ comments are harmful for growth.
TMAP Commissioners Vote to Not Recommend (Deny) Healthy Neighborhoods Overlay to City Council and Dist. 1 Residents: Had the City Councilors not passed the Healthy Neighborhoods Overlay last Wednesday (April 11) the racial inequity gap would have widen do to the lack of diverse voices and representation on city boards and commissions.
City Commissioners voting against recommending the Healthy Neighborhoods Overlay be passed at the City Council Meeting when the majority of the constituents said they need the Healthy Neighborhoods Overlay for protect. The majority of the constituents these commissioners voting against are majority African American residents from north Tulsa.
Next, some citizens believe that the TMAP Commissioners’ ‘no vote’ is indicative of a white supremacist tribalistic undercurrent that has kept Tulsa from progressing to the international, world-class city most Tulsans believe the city can become. There are no people of color on this Commission.
A Generation Of Hope
On a positive note, there is evidence that the city is experiencing a cultural shift as far as having an inclusive mindset. At the last TMAP Commissioners’ meeting, three younger commissioners reveal a turning point in Tulsa. Nick Doctor spoke-up boldly in favor of the Healthy Neighborhoods Overlay. Interestingly, all of the younger Commissioners voted in favor for the African American citizens’ request to have the Healthy Neighborhoods Overlay in District 1.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder & Executive Editor of the Black Wall St. Times. Frank graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL in General Studies, and earned a Political Science degree from Oklahoma State University. He is highly involved in community activism, a middle school teacher at Sankofa School of the Performing Arts, a blogger for Education Post, and dedicates most of his time to empowering and uplifting his community of North Tulsa, home to America’s Black Wall Street. Frank is a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation Honoree and the Community Impact Award for the MET Cares Foundation and has been featured on NBC, Blavity, and Tulsa People. Frank recently gave a TEDx Talk at the University of Tulsa.