Tulsa’s University Center Wants Clarification of Race Riot Bill
A provision of the Tulsa Race Riot bill that calls for a parcel of city land to be deeded for a proposed memorial has been questioned by the University Center at Tulsa Authority.
A provision of House Bill 2468 calls for the authority to deed over B.S. Roberts Park to the Oklahoma Historical Society to establish the memorial site.
The small park was established about four years ago to honor the Rev. B.S. Roberts. It is located at the northern edge of the Oklahoma State University at Tulsa campus.
Part of the area involved in the deadly 1921 race riot lies within the park.
“I don’t know if it’s constitutional for the Legislature to direct or ask a public trust to transfer land to the state,” says UCT Authority member Nancy Feldman. “I think it would set an unwanted precedent to do so. We need to look at this closer.”
The UCT Authority was developed in the 1980s to represent the city in the development of the University Center at Tulsa, which is now OSU-Tulsa.
Jim D. Hess, OSU-Tulsa vice president of administrative services and chief operating officer, says the university supports efforts to create a race riot memorial.
But at the request of the authority, he has sought a legal opinion on the legislation. He says the authority and OSU-Tulsa are ready to work with memorial proponents, but that transferring the park land to the Oklahoma Historical Society may not be possible.
Hess, who advises the authority on fiscal matters, says authority members are interested in maintaining ownership of Roberts Park so that they will have some control over the memorial’s development and daily appearance.
He says such issues also are important to OSU-Tulsa because the public park is part of the campus.
Rep. Don Ross, D-Tulsa, one of the co-authors of the race riot legislation, says he apologized for any confusion the bill’s language might have caused.
“I would be against any legislative act that would take away land from one entity for another,” Ross says.
“That was not the intent, and we certainly would not want to do anything that would erode the authority’s autonomy.”
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