The topics included in this theme involve conditions that contribute to Tulsans’ overall quality of life. Access to key resources can make an immense difference in making other opportunities possible; having representation through voting or through public service can give voice to those not normally heard; and effective transportation options can eliminate barriers to educational and employment opportunities.
Driven by a healthy surge in the score of the internet access indicator, the Resources topic scored 49.33, a 12 point increase from the baseline. This topic includes the addition of a new indicator this year that addresses state-level funding for services for persons with developmental disabilities.
The distribution of public resources involves decisions that take into account the level of necessity, extent of need, infrastructure constraints, and availability of the resource. Some resources constitute a necessity – and while these may be made available to all, they’re not always accessible to all, leading to inequities.
Lingering vacant housing often correlates with higher crime potential, increased danger from fire or structure collapse, and reduced neighborhood home values. North Tulsa has nearly twice the rate of vacant housing as does South Tulsa, a pattern that has changed little over the past three years of analysis.
Disparity in internet access exhibited the greatest improvement in indicator score this year with an increase of 39 points, lifting its 2020 equality score to 78 – the third highest of all of Tulsa’s indicators. The challenges faced by Tulsans as well as persons around the world over the past several months due to COVID-19 reinforced the crucial nature of internet access for effective daily functioning on many levels. Despite increasing internet accessibility for diverse Tulsa populations, those without access are hampered in their ability to work, attend school, and generally access goods and services remotely. This barrier has the potential to magnify the already existing disparities in a wide range of critical areas for Tulsans.
Disparities in state-level funding to provide services and supports to persons with developmental disabilities is the one indicator in this report that uses a geography other than the city of Tulsa or Tulsa County. Data for this indicator are available only at the state level. This measure compares Oklahoma to the national average in the percent increase in funding needed in order to provide services to all persons with developmental disabilities currently on the waiting list. Oklahoma ranks second to last among states in this indicator; funding needs to increase by 102% compared to the national average of 22%. Because of this lack of funding, Oklahomans with developmental disabilities currently wait 12 years to receive life-changing services.
 Oklahoma Department of Human Services. 2019. “Developmental Disabilities Services: Waiting List Statistics.” 6/30/19. http://www.okdhs.org/services/dd/pages/waiting.aspx.
With an equality score of 39.67, the Political Empowerment topic concerns whose voices are heard regarding decisions affecting communities. Tulsans can express their wishes in a number of ways, including by voting, by serving on one of the City’s Authorities, Boards, and Commissions, and by forming a neighborhood or homeowner association. The City of Tulsa has committed to increasing diversity on Authorities, Boards and Commissions and in government in general to achieve equity. The indicators below will help measure that progress.
Tulsa’s 51 authorities, boards, and commissions are volunteer citizen groups that focus on a wide range of topics from animal welfare to performing arts. City leadership rely on expertise and advice from these groups to guide policies and develop programs. Any Tulsa resident is eligible to apply and be appointed by the Mayor to serve on these boards.
Voter participation is another key way to have a voice in local, state, and national matters. While most people have the right to vote, select groups are barred from participating in elections. Oklahoma citizens who have been convicted of a felony are denied the right to vote until their prison sentence, parole, and probation are completed, disproportionately affecting African Americans. Non-citizens living in Oklahoma may not vote in federal or state elections, but Oklahoma municipalities have the right to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections. Oklahoma voters are required to present valid identification to vote.
A neighborhood or homeowner association’s main function is to protect residents’ property values by maintaining common areas and amenities and enforcing rules to ensure that houses and properties are not allowed to deteriorate. South Tulsa has two and a half times as many registered neighborhood or homeowner associations as does East Tulsa.
Scoring 41.00, the final topic in the 2020 Tulsa Equality Indicators focuses on disparities related to transportation. Reliable transportation is important in any community, but in sprawling Tulsa it’s absolutely essential.
Most Tulsans don’t have the luxury of living in close enough proximity to work or school, shopping, and dining destinations to not need some form of regular transportation. Although Tulsa’s mass transit system has very recently expanded its routes both geographically and in frequency, the city bus system is far from comprehensive enough to meet all of residents’ transportation needs. Residents without access to a vehicle have the greatest need for bus transportation, not only in the form of stops near home but also stops near employment, education, shopping, and other necessary destinations.
Closely connected to the issue of bus stop distribution is the disparity in the time it takes for public transportation commuters compared to those with private vehicles to travel to and from work. Private vehicle commuters are about one and a half times as likely to spend less than 30 minutes in travel time than are public transportation commuters.
While most Tulsa households own at least one vehicle, that is not always the case, nor is it always enough. African American households in Tulsa are considerably less likely to have access to a vehicle than are White households, which is a problem for the aforementioned reasons related to the city’s layout and the insufficient coverage of its mass transit system.
Transportation barriers contribute to disparities experienced by under-resourced communities.