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Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum’s misogyny and hypocrisy were both on full display at Wednesday’s heated Tulsa City Council meeting, as Black and brown community members urged the council to vote no on an increased budget that allocates millions towards police surveillance.
Councilors held a final discussion on the proposed 2022-2023 budget as the city experiences a budget increase not seen in decades. Due to the federal government’s passage of the CARES Act, and ironically, due to rising inflation, Tulsa City Council enjoyed a historic budget increase of $146 million, and planned to allocate an increase of $21.5 million to the police department. At issue was the plan to allocate $2.55 million of that money toward a Real Time Information Center (RTIC).
Despite months-long and years-long pleas from community members impacted by police violence, houselessness and mental health issues, who urged the council to redirect excess funds to community-based solutions, the council did the opposite.
Mayor G.T. Bynum is a Republican who allowed Donald Trump to attend a rally in Tulsa the day after Juneteenth and during a deadly pandemic. He was once a man who expressed support for data-driven police accountability and transparency. Yet, after the George Floyd protests in 2020, in which a coalition of people from all backgrounds marched toward his home demanding transformative justice, his attitude towards reform has soured. He’s now become a yes man for police, ignoring any harm their policies and actions continue to cause.
Misogynistic Mayor Bynum calls councilor “self-righteous” on hot mic
The most absurd aspect of the meeting, however, was the fact that even liberal councilors weren’t fighting against the expanded surveillance program.
In fact, in introducing an amendment to the budget following pleas from dozens of Black, BIPOC and White community members, Council Chair Lori Decter Wright was simply attempting to increase support and funding for firefighters, the neglected heroes who are often left out of discussions on public safety.
Despite the historic increase in the budget, Decter Wright’s attempt to reallocate one-time funds directly towards support for firefighters, mental health, housing and animal welfare resources were met with complete disdain from the Mayor and fellow councilors.
In one vote, her attempt to change course from the good ole boy system of throwing more money at police without independent oversight was shut down. That vote failed. Council went on to pass the budget without amendments. Councilor Hall-Harper was the only no vote.
Showing empathy for the dozens of community members who shared personal stories highlighting the need for a more active nonviolent mental health response team and more housing resources, Council Chair Decter Wright apologized to those in attendance who felt let down. Apparently, the Mayor didn’t like that.
Displaying an incredibly bold level of misogyny at a public city council meeting, Mayor Bynum was caught on a hot mic saying, “she’s so self-righteous.”
Download clip of Mayor Bynum calling Council Chair Lori Decter Wright “self-righteous” here: Image from iOS
Hypocritical “data-driven” mayor doesn’t care about police reform
Perhaps the Mayor uttered those words because he can’t fathom an elected official in Tulsa honestly caring about public servants other than police officers. Perhaps the Mayor’s own self-righteous behavior has him under tunnel vision.
After a gunman killed four people and himself at a medical building on the Saint Francis campus, Bynum spent more time talking about the quick police response than the victims who tragically lost their lives. But Council Chair Lori Decter Wright is the self-righteous one?
Beyond the misogyny, the smoke of hypocrisy in the room was suffocating community members who honestly believed data would prevail over fear-mongering.
Mayor Bynum used to champion the city’s initiative to grade itself on equity via the annual Equality Indicators Report. Yet, as the data shows the city going in the wrong direction, he remains silent, no longer pushing for an Office of the Independent Monitor.
For instance, in 2018, the first year the report was released, Black juveniles were more than 3 times as likely to face arrest as White juveniles. In 2021, that disparity grew, with Black juveniles now being 5 times more likely to face arrest.
Bynum failed to show leadership
Tulsa is a city where Black teens have been brutalized for “jaywalking” on a road with no sidewalks. It’s a city where TPD Major Travis Yates remains on the job after saying TPD should be killing more Black people.
And, of course, Tulsa is a city that 101 years ago deputized thousands of White supremacists to burn, loot and destroy the Historic Greenwood District, home to Black Wall Street, along with over 1,200 homes, hundreds of business, and upwards of 300 Black men, women and children.
Mayor Bynum could’ve shown leadership by bolding supporting Council Chair Lori Decter Wright’s amendment. He could’ve shown leadership by expressing support for independent oversight of the police. At the very least, he could’ve kept his mouth shut when a woman was speaking.
Instead, he showed that in Tulsa, misogyny and hypocrisy can be wielded without consequence to shut down alternative viewpoints. He showed that pleas of impacted Black and Brown community members continue to fall on deaf ears.
Correction: The gunman in the Tulsa mass shooting killed four people and himself, not three.