The "INCOG Plan" is not on the October 9 ballot

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This week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly is part 1 of a two-parter leading up to the October 9th river sales tax election. I listed four reasons for voting against the tax; the two I dealt with this week pertain to promises and plans.

The distinction between the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan (ARCMP) and the package on the October 9th ballot was a central theme in a presentation I made earlier this week.

On Monday night, at the kind invitation of Tulsa District 4 Councilor Maria Barnes, I spoke at a forum she convened at the Central Community Center on the topic of the October 9 river tax vote. Speaking in support of the tax were Jerry Lasker, executive director of the Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG), and Ken Levit, head of the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF).

At the insistence of Jean Letcher, the campaign manager for the pro-tax side, I went first with my 15 minute presentation. Also at her insistence, there was to be no opportunity for rebuttal during the Q&A period, because she didn't agree to a debate, only to an informational meeting.

In the event, moderator Ken Busby let the discussion flow freely. I think all of the panelists and the audience members who asked questions and offered comments all felt they had ample opportunity to make their points. I didn't take a count, but I imagine there were about 40 people in the room for the 90 minute meeting.

Here's what I said regarding plans:

What everyone calls the "INCOG plan" is officially known as the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan The ARCMP has been under development for the last four years, with a tremendous amount of public input from experts and laypeople alike, consultation with the Corps of Engineers and the Tennessee Valley Authority, and public hearings, culminating in the ARCMP's incorporation into the Comprehensive Plan by the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, the Tulsa County Commission, and the Tulsa City Council. The ARCMP includes both near-term projects like low-water dams and long-term aspirations like a boulevard following the west bank. It's a wish list, but a well-defined wish list.

In order to be very precise about the plan under discussion, I'm going to refer to it by the initials of its official name -- ARCMP. The pro-tax campaign seems to be determined to mislead the voters into thinking that the hastily thrown-together package on the October 9th ballot is one and the same with the ARCMP that has been four years in the making.

Of the projects that are defined in the ballot resolution for the October 9th Tulsa County sales tax election, only $64.85 million is being spent on projects in the ARCMP. At least $135 million is being spent on projects that are not in the ARCMP. Here's a breakdown:

In the ARCMP
Not in the ARCMP
Sand Springs Dam
$24.7 million
"Living River"
$90 million
Jenks Dam
$24.7 million
41st St Ped-Only Bridge
$15 million
Zink Dam improvements
$15.45 million
61st St Ped-Only Bridge
$15 million


"Downtown Connector"
$15 million
TOTAL IN PLAN
$64.85 million
TOTAL NOT IN PLAN
$135 million

Another $57.4 million is designated for "Arkansas River corridor land acquisition, infrastructure, bridge improvements and site development, and Arkansas river studies for Tulsa, Broken Arrow, Jenks, Sand Springs and Bixby." Some of that might be spent on ARCMP projects; some of it might not. It depends

The remaining $25 million is a contingency allowance covering all projects.

Here's a table summarizing the differences between the ARCMP and the tax package regarding how they were developed and their legal status:

Arkansas River Corridor
Master Plan
Tulsa County Oct. 9th
sales tax package
Developed over four years
in full public view
Put together in about two months
(within public view)
Many opportunities
for public input
No public input before plan
was set in stone
Driven by the desires of
Tulsa County citizens
Driven by the concepts of
Canadian architect Bing Thom,
consultant to GKFF
Future plan for 41st St
car and pedestrian bridge
to link west Tulsa and midtown
41st St park and
pedestrian-only bridge concept
rules out 41st St car bridge
Approved by TMAPC, County Commission, Tulsa City Council Never reviewed by TMAPC or Tulsa City Council



You can hear the October 22, 2006, StudioTulsa interview with Bing Thom, which I mentioned in my column this week. In the interview, the Canadian architect mainly discusses "The Channels," his concept for a large dam at 21st Street and high rises on islands in the Arkansas River, a plan he developed for Tulsa Stakeholders, Inc., but he also discusses his other commission, for the George Kaiser Family Foundation. You'll hear references to the 41st and 61st St pedestrian-only bridges and to the "living river" concept, albeit not by that exact name. Thom also discusses the "gathering places" along the east bank, which in the current proposal would be funded by private contributions. (There's a transcript there, too, obviously done with an automated speech-to-text system, but it does make it easier to go to key points in the recording.) The items in the October 9th county sales tax package which are not in the ARCMP seem very strongly to have come from Thom's drawing board.

Speaking of "The Channels," do you remember how closely the plan was scrutinized, and how much time was spent on it? The concept made its debut a little over a year ago, in early September 2006. Over the next three months, there was considerable public comment.

Even though County Commissioner Randi Miller endorsed the plan and raising taxes to pay for it shortly after it was announced, she insisted that the ARCMP would have to be amended to incorporate The Channels before it could be funded with tax money. So why hasn't the same requirement been levied on the "Living River," the pedestrian-only bridges, and the downtown connector?

Because the ARCMP is a part of the Comprehensive Plan for the City of Tulsa and Tulsa County, amending the plan would require public hearings and approval by the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, the Tulsa City Council, and the County Commission.

Last fall, we heard about the Arkansas River Master Corridor Plan advisory committee, which established a process for reviewing The Channels, a process that was described as "an expeditious yet rigid technical review" to be conducted in the course of about 10 weeks. In her October 8, 2006, opinion column, Janet Pearson says there are 50 members on this advisory committee.

Has this 50-member committee been convened to evaluate the package on this year's October 9th ballot?

Then there's this quote from PMg's Gaylon Pinc regarding the process of evaluating The Channels for inclusion in the Comprehensive Plan:

Pinc said the gist of the INCOG board's resolution "would be whether The Channels should be incorporated as a component of the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan" and the city's comprehensive plan.

Should the resolution gain the approval of the Planning Commission, it would go before the City Council, and then on to the County Commission.

The County Commission had hoped to decide Dec. 11 on whether to call for a Feb. 13 election on the public funding issue.

In other words, in order to do everything according to Hoyle, this process would have had to have been completed prior to any vote by the County Commission to put a tax on the ballot.

That process wasn't followed with the Kaiser plan. Why not?

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6 Comments

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

As always, this is thorough, well organized, succinct, You very are well prepared. Being prepared seems to make people unhappy.

Day Dreamer said:

Concur, Michael does his normal, bang-up thorough analysis of a Public Policy issue.

You've just got to know, when our self-annointed betters huddle in their Coven for a meeting to chart our city's future, Michael is definitely NOT invited.

But, I expect they exorcise through a thorough Rant-and-Rage Ritual, where they stomp on his effigy, to momentarily get him out of their system.

XonOFF said:

Well done Michael.
If this doesn't expose the goings on, then they must be below reading grade.

s said:

Top reporting -- you did better research and reporting than the Tulsa World newspaper again!

The A Team said:

Why weren't you listed as a speaker in the invitations sent out for this event? The Kaiser Team was on the invitation. Pretty gracious of you to refer to it as a kind invitation considering it was an apparent afterthought in an attempt to avoid criticism. I guess it's the thought that counts, right? You're too kind.

Bearway said:

Great Job!! My employer sent out an email to all his employees suggesting we vote for the project, quoting an email from George Kaiser. I would love to use your brilliant research on this to refute this "Good Ol Boy" and his band of merry thieves.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 26, 2007 7:11 PM.

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