Defunct Airline Flies Again in Mayoral Campaign

Rest assured that airliner in the distance does not have Great Plains written on its side, and yet, the topic of the defunct carrier is back with as much subtlety as a landing jet.

"$7.1 million dollars was paid back to the local bank at the expense of the citizens of Tulsa," said mayoral candidate Bill Christiansen, dusting off the issue to assign blame to Taylor and Bartlett.

"They were both involved in it, they both elected to do it, and now the taxpayers are left holding the bag because they've paid more property tax than they should have paid," he said.

"I don't think you can point the finger at any one," said attorney Robert Sartin. He{}is the lawyer who has{}represented the city and the airport in the case.

"If you look back at the history of the loan and the default, three mayors in a row looking at the facts independently made the decision that the claim should have been settled," he said.

Nevertheless, says Christiansen, that was $7 million that could have been spent elsewhere.

"It could have bought police cars, it could have bought fire trucks," he said.

And his jab at mayor Bartlett?

"The sad thing in my mind is that then Tulsa airport improvement trust member Dewey Bartlett approved this payback and spoke very highly of it," he said.

Bartlett's campaign hit back by saying Christiansen is "using gutter politics to attack and tear people down."

Eventually, the city got the money back thanks to a lawsuit brought by a citizens group.

"The Oklahoma supreme court ruled that the money had to be returned to the city of Tulsa," said Christiansen.

Ah, but says Sartin, that outcome was due in part to how Taylor settled the case in the first place.

"She structured the settlement such that if a court ultimately determined the case shouldn't have been settled that all of the money would be repaid to the city," said Sartin.

Great Plains airlines, now servicing the unfriendly skies of a mayoral race.

"And this will be a campaign issue," said Christiansen.


Statement from Mayor Bartlett's campaign----

"There City Councilor Bill Christiansen goes again, using gutter politics to attack and tear people down. It's exactly what Councilor Christiansen did as part of the old City Council, and since he's been gone, Tulsa's city government has operated in a positive way with mutual respect among officials. Tulsans threw the old Council out of office because it used constant conflict and negative tactics, and I suspect had Councilor Christian sought re-election, Tulsans would have rejected the negativity that he often brings to the process."

Statement from Kathy Taylor's campaign----

"The facts on Great Plains are clear. I stepped into a messy lawsuit based on a Tulsa investment in 2001. We needed to act to protect citizens and to protect jobs at the city's biggest economic generator. Despite the fact that Bill Christiansen was on the council during the Great Plains settlement and is in the airplane business, his description of the City's exposure and involvement is completely incorrect as was the information he put in the robo-call. Robert Sartin, who acted as independent legal counsel to the City, can provide the details of the settlement which included a requirement that if the trial court's ruling on the legality was successfully challenged, the city would be repaid - which has happened."