Better government transparency results

At one time, the Board of County Commissioners chair also headed various other county governing boards.
Fred Perry changed that two weeks after becoming commission chairman. Now every commissioner shares those chairmanships. It made an immediate difference.
The result, Perry said, is efficient and more transparent operation of county government.
Perry, who is seeking re-election as District 3 Tulsa County commissioner in 2010, said his three years in the position have been both challenging and rewarding.
Splitting the chairman’s responsibilities has made it possible to be more effective in serving people in the district, he said.
Immediately after making the change, Perry appointed District 1 Commissioner John Smaligo Jr. to chair the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority Fair Board.
This year, when Smaligo became commission chair, Perry took over the Fair Board responsibilities and District Two Commissioner Karen Keith was named to head the Juvenile Justice Center task force.
As a result, people at the fairgrounds see the commissioner more often and that person can be more attentive to their needs.
The 10 division directors reporting to the commissioners also have easier access to the commission, Perry said. In the past, it was extremely difficult to get an audience with the chairman. Occasionally the judges need access to the commissioners who serve as landlords to the judiciary.
Perry said he led committee in a nation-wide search for a fairgrounds director.
That effort led to the hiring of Mark Andrus who brought experience to Tulsa and a desire to increase the annual number of events booked at the fairgrounds while simultaneously cutting expenses without cutting quality services.
“A lot of credit must go to the fairgrounds staff, but I like to think that I helped by looking at it from a business standpoint,” Perry said. “Andrus and I are soul-mates in cutting expenses and John (Smaligo) as chair also focused on that effort.”
Government transparency and improving efficiency of county operations remain at the top of Perry’s goals.
It’s not that the county was inefficient before, and doing a good job for constituents may seem like a cliché, but it is an important service that elected officials can provide, he said. That also applies to all boards.
The commissioner said he does due diligence on individuals recommended for boards, he said. These are individuals that people call with problems that need a resolution and not wait for a bureaucracy to act.
In some circles, people have the image of government officials going behind closed doors to make decisions, Perry said. Unfortunately, that is becoming an increasing concept today coming out of the computer age.
That is why such strong efforts were made to utilize technology and improve the county website. It is easy for citizens go to that site and find out what is going on in Tulsa County.
Perry noted with pride that Tulsa County is one of the top five counties in the nation as ranked by the Sunshine Group as having a high quality Web site.
He credited Smaligo, Terry Simonson and County Clerk Earlene Wilson as well as the IT staff for that success.
Tulsa County’s budget is more stable because it is funded by property taxes, Perry continued. That removes the instability experienced by governments depending on sales tax revenues.
People also have seen their money used as promised.
The 4 to Fix Tulsa County is a good example, he said. Great improvements have been made throughout the area in parks, roads and especially the fairgrounds.
Because of those examples, citizens are not as negative towards the county work, he said. ‘‘I think that people actually are more positive when they think of the county government.”
The basic job for the county is taking maintaining roads, Perry said. A recent project was at 101st and South Memorial. Labor was provided by the county while the City of Tulsa provided the materials for the project.
County crews work with various cities on all kinds of bridge and road projects. In smaller cities — below 5,000 people — the county functions as that community’s street department.
Cities do their part on the projects.
Often they will provide the material while the county does the dirt work.
During the cleanup after Tulsa’s ice storm in December, 2007, the county provided emergency crews with a parking space for the big trucks needed for the work as well as places to sleep and meals.
“We fed the crews a hot breakfast, provide a box lunch, then a hot meal in the evening,” Perry said.
“Yes, the county was paid for these services,” he said, but the crews were “happy as clams.”
They said they often went to disaster sites where they had to furnish their own food and sleep in trucks when they were off duty.
Even though Perry has one full year remaining in his current term, he is looking ahead to the 2010 election and goals beyond that time if he is re-elected.
“I will continue to work on reducing county operating expenses without sacrificing quality services,” he said.
Work also must be done on the antiquated horse stalls at the fairgrounds that are between 30 and 40 years old. Mike Spradling, Oklahoma Farm Bureau president, has been charged with overseeing that project.
Work on restoration of the Armory is underway and that facility will be a positive addition to Tulsa.
A determination also is being made on what to do with Driller Stadium that will continue to provide a revenue stream to the fairgrounds.
Initially, that could be leasing the stadium to soccer and baseball teams, perhaps to concerts and other public activities.
A Request For Proposal has gone out nationwide to anyone that might want to develop the property.
Work on the LaFortune Park tennis courts continues as that 40-year-old facility also is upgraded, Perry said. Within 60 days there should be 18 new tennis courts available for the public to use. The goal is to have 24 courts, including three indoor courts that would provide opportunities to give tennis lessons year-round.
A lot of work remains to be done, Perry added. “I want to be part of that effort.”

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