Meet your city councilor: Blake Ewing
Blake Ewing has lived in Tulsa for the last 21 years and joined the council in 2011. Returning to Tulsa after graduating from John Brown University in Arkansas, Ewing met his wife, Julie. They have two young sons, Skyler and Scout. Ewing is well known around town for the restaurants and businesses he owns in the downtown area. As a councilor and a Tulsa resident, Ewing is passionate about the city and what it can become.
This is your first term on the City Council. Why did you decide to run?
I have businesses downtown, and I think with each passing year I just become increasingly more excited about Tulsa’s potential and where it’s going and just have fallen in love with not just Tulsa as it is but Tulsa as it can be. I really believe in the potential of this city, and I felt like one of the areas we could do better was (the City Council). I really felt like there was an attitude that said, “Unless you’re retired or unless you don’t have a lot of other things going on, you’re too busy to do this job.” So there’s a part of me that wanted to prove that wrong. I’m pretty busy and I have a lot going on, but I really hope that younger people will feel like they can come and do this thing. … We need our busy people to be the ones actively participating in running the city. Not just the people who have spare time — that shouldn’t be our No. 1 qualifier for elected office. I’ve always been interested in politics and interested in municipal government, so it was kind of an exciting thing for me to get to do.
How has your experience been so far?
Oh, I’ve loved it — it’s a fun challenge. I get to meet lots of people. It’s interesting to have the perspective that you get when you’re here, to know what’s going on in so many different neighborhoods. I love the part of town that I live in, of course, and I think that there’s a lot of exciting things happening in the midtown and downtown area. To get to be a part of those things and indirectly or directly affect those things is exciting.
What initiatives did you work to create that you’re excited about?
The Route 66 task force is the biggest undertaking. It’s the largest task force in the city right now. There are over 100 people involved on lots of different subcommittees, working on bringing Route 66 back to life. We’re working on changing some codes and changing some signage and hopefully getting some activity out of the state to update Route 66 on the maps and then to create some economic development here in the city, so I hope that you’ll start seeing the fruits of that in the near future. It’s pretty exciting.
Why was Route 66 something you chose to work on?
A lot of reasons. I think it’s, if not the most, then the second-most-underutilized asset that the city has. It might be up there with the Arkansas River. It’s internationally known, has a really solid brand, it’s one of the top tourist attractions anywhere — people come from all over the world to … travel Route 66, and those people are driving through our city. We’ve got 20-plus miles of it in the city of Tulsa, and I really feel like we’ve missed out on capitalizing on that. In Oklahoma, the cities are largely funded by sales tax revenue, and so, with that in mind, we should be creating more opportunities for people to come here, spend money and leave. With that in mind, I think that we are underperforming as a tourist city — Route 66 is our best opportunity for that.
There are a lot of new councilors this year. How has that shaped your time on the council so far?
There are seven of us that are new; I think we’ve all been kind of learning together. Not just learning how to do our job as city councilors but how to work together as a team. I think that there’s a pretty solid sense of teamwork on this council. It’s been a good group to work with — really decent, respectable people — just regular people like you and me who just wanted to make the city a better place. Not a whole lot of career politicians or big political aspirations here. These are an auto mechanic, a nurse, a secretary and an engineer — just regular people who love their city.
What are you really hoping to accomplish for District 4?
District 4 has a lot of things being built right now — I mean that both in the literal sense but also in kind of the bigger-picture sense. We’ve got cranes all over downtown as museums and hotels and residential projects come to life. So downtown is kind of in a perpetual state of revitalization and construction, and that to me is the most exciting thing happening in the city of Tulsa right now. A reinvented downtown means a reinvented Tulsa — its everybody’s back yard. People in Tulsa are waking up to that. They’re starting to feel safer and more comfortable coming down here. But also these neighborhoods that flank downtown are in transition as well. The exciting things happening downtown will be affecting Riverview, Owen Park and the Pearl District, so you’re seeing the wave of new energy kind of spreading all across midtown. What I hope to accomplish is to not just continue the projects that are happening but to add some “oomph” to it and keep this ball rolling.
What do you appreciate most about your district and the Tulsa community in general?
District 4 is a wildly passionate district about what’s going on in Tulsa. So many people in our nonprofit community and on our boards and commissions and government service and our church community come out of District 4. It just seems like a part of town that is really engaged about the development of our city, and I’m sure that that exists elsewhere, but the concentration of it in District 4 is just amazing. From the young people to the old people, they are really connected and tuned in and excited about seeing Tulsa become a better place. I love that there is kind of a healthy discontent in District 4 — people are happy, they love Tulsa, they’re excited to live here, but they’re also not happy with it as it is because they see that it can be better and they expect it to be, and that’s an exciting thing to see in a city.
What are some of District 4’s highlights?
We’ve got the best parks in the city in my opinion: Woodward Park, River Parks, some of the small neighborhood parks — Owen Park and Brady Park are some of my favorite places to go with my boys and feed the ducks, so it’s beautiful in that sense. We’ve got the best shopping areas in the city, with Utica Square and Cherry Street, the best entertainment districts in downtown and Cherry Street. We’ve got the most unique local restaurants and retail. There might be more shopping in south Tulsa, but it’s not unique to Tulsa, and I think if you really wanted the true Tulsa experience, you’ve got to be in midtown and downtown. I’m lucky to have all of that inside my district.