TulsaNow speaks on the sales tax election


The coordinating committee of TulsaNow (of which I am one of about 15 members) has issued a statement about the "Dialog / Visioning" process and the September 9 Tulsa County sales tax election. I want you to read this statement before you read on below. It would distort the carefully crafted message to quote one part of it, so I'm going to put the whole thing here:

TulsaNow has been involved in the regional vision process from the beginning. In June we emphasized to the Vision/Dialog leadership team some important principles based on research and prior success. The recently announced package of four proposals that will be presented to Tulsa County voters on September 9 has the potential to address some of those principles.

We believe that quality of life factors are key components of economic development, and that our vision for the future should include enhancing Tulsa's urban landscape, promoting walkable communities, addressing quality of life issues, and recognizing the importance of our city center. We encourage voters to consider whether the current package before the voters will bring us closer to that vision.

To learn more about the principles that can make these things happen, visit our web site. At www.tulsanow.org under Resources you'll find specifics on livability issues and the importance of a vibrant downtown in achieving regional economic competitiveness. This information was researched by TulsaNow members, from case studies of success in other cities and from experts from across the nation.

The citizen-strong process began soundly over a year ago, and we are proud of our involvement in helping it flourish. But at some point, an open, grassroots-driven process turned into a course of action restricted by uncertain hopes of short-term economic payoffs, and focused on political maneuvering for a sales tax election.

For many, this was a disappointing turn from what had been perceived as a significant stride forward in citizen involvement. It was also a departure from the Dialog / Visioning process, which was supposed to have included a Comprehensive Strategic Plan. This step in the process appears to have been skipped. Only a relatively small percentage of this 4-part package is devoted to vision-inspired, proven, and forward-looking strategies for healthy economies and vital city centers.

Although individual members may advocate for or against this package, TulsaNow as an organization is deliberately choosing not to endorse or oppose this package. Instead, we will continue to advocate for our principles. We will encourage and facilitate making all available information about the package accessible to the public. We will advocate for open, fair, and full debate of the issues.

TulsaNow believes the hard work of reshaping our region and our city as a 21st Century haven for expanded economic livelihood and viable, livable neighborhoods is just beginning. Regardless of how the vote concludes, TulsaNow will host The Day After, a September 10 public meeting to continue grassroots community dialogue about the future of our region. We remain positive about Tulsa's future, and we will stay the course.


Now my thoughts: Let me explain why TulsaNow is playing a valuable role in our city's future, and why this statement from TulsaNow is worth your attention.

TulsaNow members have been deeply involved in the vision process since the beginning. In fact, it began in April 2001, more than a year before the Mayor's Vision Summit, as an attempt to restart the civic dialogue about Tulsa's future in the wake of the defeat of "It's Tulsa's Time," the 2000 sales tax proposal for a sports arena. (One of the group's "conveners", Marilyn Inhofe-Tucker has written a brief history of TulsaNow.)

I was invited to participate in July 2001. I suspect that some of the founders were surprised at first to have in their midst someone who had been a leader of the opposition to the 2000 sports arena proposal. But we quickly found common ground: A desire to see Tulsa reach its potential, and particularly to see downtown become a vibrant urban place once again. As we studied the ideas of local and national experts on cities, the focus shifted away from building big edifices and toward the principles that mark successful downtowns -- creating a sense of place, preserving unique history, a combination of residential, retail, offices, and other uses, building pedestrian-friendly connections between activity centers, among other ideas.

As the statement mentions, the Resources section of TulsaNow's website has links, a bibliography, and articles about urban places and what makes them successful. The Mayor's Vision Summit report (both summary and full report) are online as well.

TulsaNow also focused on process, on the importance of true grass-roots involvement in defining a vision for our city's future. TulsaNow leaders helped plan the Mayor's Vision Summit, served as facilitators, and produced the official report. Last fall TulsaNow sponsored a "Battle of the Plans" to give Tulsans with a bold idea the chance to present it to the public. And when TulsaNow became concerned that the vision process was losing focus, we sent a polite but plain-spoken message to the Dialog / Visioning leadership team: "Please don't blow it."

Did the leadership team blow it anyway? You be the judge.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 19, 2003 12:21 AM.

Postcards from the road was the previous entry in this blog.

Opportunities for online expression is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]