Vote yes strategem #1:
Tell them something bad about Tulsa

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Because the proponents of this billion-dollar tax hike know they can't win on the merits, they have settled on using emotional manipulation to try to convince Tulsans to raise their own taxes on September 9th. A letter in today's Whirled illustrates the technique:

Doesnít anyone but me remember the way it used to be in Tulsa? There were good schools, opera, ballet, Broadway plays and we were so proud to say that we were living in the most beautiful city in the country. Back then there were presidents and CEOs of oil companies who promoted and led the advancement of our city in all directions.

Evidently this writer doesn't get out much. We still have a great opera. There's a performance on September 13; I've seen the billboards. The 2003-4 season includes three classics: La Traviata, the Barber of Seville, The Tales of Hoffman.

We still have a world-class ballet, too. The Ballet will perform the American premiere of a new ballet, along with a number of classic works. They'll be doing the Nutcracker again -- a Christmas tradition in Tulsa for over 30 years -- but this year will be an entirely new production, scripted and choreographed by Tulsa Ballet's artistic director, Marcello Angelini. Just a year ago, the Tulsa Ballet performed at the Ballet Nights Festival in Sintra, Portugal. According to their website, "Tulsa Ballet was the only American company featured at the festival and the only company in the 37-year history of the Sintra Festival asked to perform six times over two weekends."

And what about Broadway plays? Peter Pan was performed earlier this month at TCC's PACE, starring Broadway performer Kathryn Zaremba. And Celebrity Attractions has a full season planned, including Grease, The Producers, and Thoroughly Modern Millie.

And I haven't even mentioned the Signature Symphony, the Starlight Concert Band, Theatre Tulsa, not to mention countless amateur groups, plus the professional entertainers who perform in nightclubs and restaurants. There is plenty of live, high quality arts and entertainment to be had in Tulsa. All you have to do is scan the events calendar in the paper. There is something happening every night of the week. Or you can ignore the events calendar, pull out the TV listings, and complain about the lack of cultural amenities while you watch "Fear Factor".

And does this writer to the Whirled know how much of this billion dollar package will go to fund the arts? Zero. Not one itty-bitty penny.

As for good schools, Tulsa County has two high schools ranked in the top 4% of schools in the nation, according to the "Challenge Index": Tulsa's Booker T. Washington and Jenks. Tulsa area citizens have put plenty of money in the public schools. Over the last 10 years, Tulsa Public Schools taxpayers have voted for three bond issues totaling over $300 million. Citizens in the suburban Tulsa County districts have been just as generous with their school systems.

I'm still proud of this beautiful city, and I love it when friends visit for the first time, expecting flat, dusty, and barren, and instead seeing our beautiful trees and hills, and the beautiful buildings scattered throughout our city. Sadly, parts of our city are not as lovely, in large part because of some planning decisions made in decades past. But this sales tax hike won't fix that problem -- we need visionary leadership from elected officials and developers to reform the way we build our city.

Tulsa has its problems, but don't slander our fair city to our own citizens and to the rest of the world, just so we can goad Tulsa County citizens into raising their taxes by $1 billion. Let's celebrate what we have and find effective solutions to fix the problems.

What about the oil company CEOs? Most of them moved to Texas, where there is no state income tax.

Continuing with the letter:

Today people say that they will vote against Vision 2025 because they will not get any benefit from it. That means they donít believe money will come in from tourists coming to a new arena or that organizations will choose Tulsa over other places for conventions.

Arenas draw tourists? When was the last time you took a vacation to see an arena? There are some things in Proposition 4 that might be attractive to tourists -- funding for Route 66, the Jenks Aquarium, the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, the Indian Cultural Center -- except for the aquarium, these items tie into our unique history. (I think we could fund them without raising sales taxes, by using state, federal, and private grant money, or including them in renewals of existing funding packages.) An arena (in Proposition 3) would just be a big undistinguished building, a place to play minor league hockey -- a nice diversion for locals, but not a tourist draw.

As for the Convention Center, the CSL study shows that the vast majority of national business conventions and trade shows will not consider Tulsa, even if we add the recommended ballroom and meeting space. The best we can hope for are "SMERF" conventions -- social, military, educational, religious, and fraternal events, where people are spending their own money, rather than spending freely on an expense account. These conventions tend to be small, and many prefer hotel venues rather than downtown convention centers. The new Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center in south Tulsa is aggressively pursuing this kind of business, and we have three other hotels that can accommodate the small conventions that we have a shot at attracting.

They donít believe that our schools need funding because they have no children in school. Vision 2025 means to me that we now have a mayor in Bill LaFortune who has the same dedication and the desire to see Tulsa grow and prosper. If we donít fund these things, one day our school system will be just like Bostonís and New Yorkís where the wealthy send their children to private schools and the poor and the unambitious are the only ones in public school.

See above about our generous funding of the schools. They did lump about $11 million in common school funding in with the downtown sports arena, as a way of buying votes for that unpopular project. If the schools need this extra funding, they should use a bond issue to get the money directly, rather than going roundabout through the county treasury.

Weíve been proud of Tulsa in education, economic growth, infrastructures, building, and architecture, and now it is time to continue the forward step. Our mayor is progressive, hardworking, completely unbiased in his desire for all this area to prosper. He has the backing of the City Council. Now letís show our desire to promote Tulsa by backing these people on Sept. 9.

Billie R. Jones, Tulsa

I want to see Tulsa continue to move forward as well, with a comprehensive, strategic plan, promised as part of this vision process, but not delivered. This collection of projects is not strategic, not visionary, and does not effectively address the real challenges we face.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 30, 2003 12:01 PM.

Katherine is taking care of daddy was the previous entry in this blog.

Whom do you trust? is the next entry in this blog.

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