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City Council resolution apologizing for 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, subsequent discrimination to be considered Wednesday
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City Council resolution apologizing for 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, subsequent discrimination to be considered Wednesday

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Buildings in the rebuilt Greenwood District are pictured in the foreground.

Early indications are that the City Council is close but not quite there yet when it comes to unifying behind a proposed resolution apologizing for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and committing to make tangible amends.

The news is not surprising: Several councilors did not know the resolution was in the works until early last week, and the final draft version was not posted on the City Council website until late Friday.

“I want to hear what the other councilors have to say about the whole proclamation because I have heard from some councilors who have some issues with certain things,” said Councilor Jeannie Cue.

Cue said she would like to hear from the city’s legal advisers before deciding how she will vote on the measure.

“We have lawsuits pending. … I am not putting the city or the citizens of Tulsa in any kind of legal jeopardy,” Cue said.

Councilor Connie Dodson said Saturday that she had not had a chance to take a thorough look at the document.

“I am not opposed to a resolution of some kind, if we can agree on language, and that is true with any resolution,” Dodson said.

Councilor Crista Patrick said she was generally supportive of the resolution but that she needs to examine it more to determine whether any revisions should be made.

City Council resolutions are nonbinding declarations used to recognize significant events or people and to express councilors’ support or opposition to actions or issues.

The council has nine members. Resolutions require the approval of a majority of councilors present and the signature of the mayor to become effective. For a resolution to take effect immediately or to overturn a mayor’s veto, six votes are required.

Bynum has not spoken specifically about the resolution but on Monday issued an apology on behalf of the city.

“While no municipal elected official in Tulsa today was alive in 1921, we are the stewards of the same government and an apology for those failures is ours to deliver,” Bynum wrote in a Facebook post. “As the Mayor of Tulsa, I apologize for the city government’s failure to protect our community in 1921 and to do right by the victims of the Race Massacre in its aftermath.

“The victims — men, women, young children — deserved better from their city, and I am sorry they didn’t receive it.”

The Council’s resolution is being sponsored by Councilors Kara Joy McKee, Vanessa Hall-Harper, Mykey Arthrell and Lori Decter Wright.

It calls for the creation within six months of a community-led process to evaluate the “recommendations for reconciliation” in the state’s 2001 Tulsa Race Riot Commission report.

The commission’s recommendations for redress included, in rank order: payments to living survivors; payments to descendants of those who had property damage during the riot; a scholarship fund; business tax incentives for the Greenwood District; and a memorial.

The community-led process also would provide recommendations for making progress toward restoring the economic mobility, prosperity and generational wealth of the massacre survivors, their descendants and residents of north Tulsa.

McKee said she was grateful for the input she has received from her colleagues and is hopeful that the resolution will pass.

“Like all of our city resolutions and ordinances, city legal has reviewed this document to make sure that it is not going to get us in trouble with any ongoing legal matters,” McKee said.

Councilor Jayme Fowler described the proposed resolution as a “fairly sound document” but indicated that he would like to see some changes.

“There are some things I would like and I think some other councilors would like to maybe mark up or strike or add, amend a little bit,” Fowler said.

He added that he did not believe Wednesday’s discussion of the resolution was the proper time to talk about reparations.

“Reparations is a separate discussion, and I think that is a discussion to be had a little further down the road,” Fowler said.

Council Chairwoman Vanessa Hall-Harper said it would be up to the community-led committee to determine what making amends means in concrete terms.

“We are proposing a resolution; we are resolving to work on this issue,” Hall-Harper said.

“The most important piece is it will be a community-led process. If it is community led, then clearly we can’t dictate or make statements right now of what that is going to look like.”

Councilor Phil Lakin, CEO of Tulsa Community Foundation, said he would like to see the resolution acknowledge the more recent efforts of the city and the philanthropic community to help the underserved and address long-standing disparities in Tulsa.

“We live in America’s most generous city, and we really work hard supporting the needs of others,” Lakin said. “Our corporations and philanthropic organizations and foundations deserve a lot of credit for serving and helping so many people.”

Wednesday marks the return to in-person meetings for the City Council, and the public can attend the meeting and comment on the proposed resolution and other items on the agenda.

The council will discuss the proposed resolution at its 2:30 p.m. committee meeting before a discussion and possible vote on the matter at 5 p.m. in City Council chambers at City Hall.

Those wishing to speak at the 5 p.m. meeting must sign in before the agenda item they wish to comment on is read.

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