Well, kinda sort of. Downtown Oklahoma City Inc’s- counterpart in Tulsa was started 29 years ago to oversee its business improvement district. But an Oklahoma City maintenance company submitted a better bid to oversee much of the group’s operations and now it’s turning from full-fledged six-person office to a small one-person advocacy group.
As an outsider, I saw this one coming. Time after time, I noticed Jim Norton and his organization were increasingly unpopular among downtown Tulsa civic and business leaders I met with. From my own experience I can testify that Norton was not strong on public relations. Whenever I called, he was defensive, short and seemingly unwilling to tell downtown Tulsa’s story. Now, when these calls involved unpleasant stories, I could understand such defensiveness. But several of the stories were truly upbeat features on downtown Tulsa’s progress.
According to various folks I know in downtown Tulsa, such abrassiveness was not uncommon. I have no reason to believe Norton is anything but a good guy who passionately cares about his city. But if you can’t get along with your constituencies, the noblest of causes can end up stalled.
As tense negotiations continue over Downtown Oklahoma City Inc.’s efforts to do an early renewal of the downtown OKC BID one can only hope a similar situation doesn’t develop here. Just visit Downtown Tulsa Unlimited’s website and one realizes it, like Downtown OKC Inc., was doing much more than street cleaning.
Now, am I saying a similar situation could happen here? Am I suggesting the gang at Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. have some relationship mending ahead? That’s not for me to say. No one is coming out in public and saying so either. But what one side might consider to be typical negotiation tactics can sometimes be perceived as bullying or threats by the other side.
Downtown Tulsa Unlimited found itself with a lot of constituents who rightly or wrongly felt that Jim Norton and the organization no longer represented their concerns. From the folks I’ve talked to in Tulsa over the years, it would appear a little extra effort in realm of public relations could have gone a long way to prevent what’s happening next week.
The demise of Downtown Tulsa Unlimited surely offers everyone a lesson about the need to keep one’s eye on what’s really important and to keep cool on things that won’t really matter at the end of the day.