Whirled opposes thought and diligence


Last Thursday's Whirled editorial, "Wise counsel", continues the editorial board's campaign against thought, diligence, and research by Tulsa's elected officials. As I noted during the Council campaign, a lobotomized monkey is the Tulsa Whirled editorial board's gold standard of quality for elected officials. To clarify, this hypothetical lobotomized monkey would have some sort of remote control implant, with the controls over in the Whirled's bunker on Main Street. (Take a look at the Main Street frontage of the Whirled's building, and tell me that it wasn't built to create a defensible position against an uprising by peasants with pitchforks.)

To the extent that a City Councilor or County Commissioner approaches that level of thoughtless obedience, the Whirled editorial board praises the official as "thoughtful", "intelligent", "wise", "a voice of common sense". And to the degree that an official displays independent judgment, asks questions, or requests further research, the official is labeled by the Whirled's spinners as "a naysayer", "anti-progress", "contentious", "difficult".

And so we have the Whirled's praise of County Commissioner Wilbert Collins, who spoke at a Council committee meeting Tuesday, calling the councilors "selfish" for not wanting to use Tulsa's sales tax dollars to facilitate the growth of a city which competes with Tulsa for those same sales tax dollars. As suburbs like Owasso grow, they not only capture retail dollars that their own residents used to spend in Tulsa, they snag shoppers coming from the surrounding region, who find they no longer need to drive all the way into Tulsa to shop at major retailers like Lowe's. While suburban sales tax receipts have begun to recover, the City of Tulsa's receipts are still down from previous years, the result of suburban competition. This will continue to create pressure to spend third penny dollars on operating expenses and potentially to increase taxes to pay for capital improvements.

The editorial is correct to say that Owasso will continue to grow with or without more water from Tulsa, but it is wrong to suggest that the new water line won't affect the rate of growth. Owasso's growth is fueled by a desire for bigger but affordable homes and better schools. Tulsa has already helped Owasso's growth by funding the development of the Cherokee Industrial Park, which was intended to boost north Tulsa's redevelopment. Employees of the park's tenants, such as WorldCom, found they could live just as close to work in Owasso, in new homes, and send their kids to schools where learning is still the top priority and parents' concerns are respected.

Beyond the $5.2 million to build the line itself, the impact of Owasso's growth on Tulsa's sales tax receipts could be in the tens of millions. Given the concerns about fueling Owasso's growth at Tulsa's expense, and the way the item was slipped in as if it were a routine matter, it was reasonable for a majority of the Council to want to take a second, closer look at it and carefully think through the implications. From the Whirled's perspective, the Council should simply do as they're told and don't ask questions. In the words of Mickey Spillane, "'Shut up,' he explained."

It's been suggested that this water line is payback for Owasso's support of Vision 2025. During the campaign, we documented that most of the suburbs would be donor cities, contributing a bigger share of Vision dollars than they would receive in public improvements. It was hard to understand why suburban city officials were acquiescing in this transfer of wealth to the central city. If getting Tulsa to pay for a water line is reckoned as part of the deal, Owasso comes closer to breaking even.

It would have been better if the motion to reconsider had been allowed to go forward at last week's special meeting. That plan was thwarted by an error in posting the meeting's agenda, but the bigger problem is the Council rule requiring reconsideration of a vote at the next official meeting, even if it's a special meeting at 3 o'clock in the morning. If a vote is taken at a regular Thursday night meeting, it makes sense that the motion to reconsider would be taken up at the next regular meeting. Perhaps the rules should specify that a motion to reconsider can be taken up at any Council meeting within a week of the original vote, or, if no Council meetings are held within seven days, at the next regular meeting whenever it is held. The clerical error that kept reconsideration from going forward left repeal as the only option to put the brakes on this plan long enough for due diligence to be completed.

I understand that the editorial is inaccurate in its report that Councilor Roscoe Turner now supports building the water line. According to someone who has heard the tape of the meeting, Turner expressed his appreciation for those who spoke to the Council, and said he had a better understanding of the perspective of those who support funding the water line, but he did not announce a change in views. The meeting was a full-court press -- Collins, his County Commission colleague Randi Miller, Mayoral aide Clay Bird, Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority chairman Jim Cameron, and the Mayor himself.

The editorial's targeting of Chris Medlock is interesting. In the eyes of the Whirled's editorial writers, he has been transformed from someone who can't build coalitions to accomplish anything into the leader of a "camp," the "anti-progress faction," who is getting to be too effective at doing things the Whirled doesn't want done.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 10, 2004 2:24 AM.

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