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Mayor Bynum informed city councilors of his intention to veto the spray paint ordinance through a letter on Monday evening. (Photo courtesy of Explore Downtown Tulsa)

By: Nate Morris

On Monday evening, Mayor G.T. Bynum sent a letter to city councilors informing them that he would veto the spray paint ordinance passed on July 18, 2018.

In his letter to councilors, Bynum noted that the memorandum places an undue legal burden on both store owners and the city’s youth. Chief among his concerns was the likelihood that minors arrested for being in possession of spray paint or other aerosol substances will lead a child down an unnecessary path in the criminal justice system.  The $200 fine, he noted, “presents a very real potential for poor kids in Tulsa… to be jailed simply for possessing an aerosol spray paint can.”

“I do not believe possession of an aerosol spray paint can is an offense worth the potential damage that could be caused to a young Tulsan’s life by this ordinance,” the mayor continued in his letter.

In addition, the letter contained data from the Tulsa Police Department countering claims made by the ordinance’s author, councilwoman Connie Dodson, that this ordinance would effectively reduce instances of graffiti in the city.  According to the mayor’s letter, from January to June of 2018, only eight minors had been arrested in the city for “malicious mischief” (which includes vandalism).  None of those eight arrests were for graffiti.

Mayor Bynum also indicated his concern around the undue financial and legal burden placed on small businesses in Tulsa.  He noted the ordinance only requires brick and mortar stores to monitor spray paint sales without requiring online stores to do the same.

At the end of his letter to the council, the mayor stated his willingness to work together with council members to combat issues of unwanted graffiti in the city.

This decision comes as public backlash against the ordinance grew following its passing.  Local educators, community leaders and candidates for office publicly voiced their deep concerns around the unjust practice of criminalizing a largely innocuous substance for the youth of the city of Tulsa.

For many, the mayor’s decision to utilize his veto power on a 5-2 council decision underscores his administration’s commitment to hearing the community and to pushing forward to the implementation of the Resilient Tulsa plan unveiled earlier this spring.

According to the city charter, after a period of 7 days, the council may choose to override the veto with a 2/3 majority vote.  No council member has expressed plans to do so as of now.

*Correction: an earlier version of this story posted the incorrect date the ordinance passed.  It has since been corrected. 


Nate Morris is a contributor to the Black Wall Street Times.  Nate was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area and moved to Tulsa in 2012 after graduating from Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia.  He received his Master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in 2015.  Nate is a Teach for America alumnus and has worked in schools throughout the Tulsa area.  He is an advocate for educational equity as well as racial and social justice throughout Tulsa and the nation as a whole.

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