Saying no in order to say yes

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We've won the argument. They're reduced to saying, "Voting yes is positive, voting no is negative. And you wouldn't want to be negative, right?"

At the TU Earth Matters forum, the vote yes side didn't bother refuting the factual points I've raised, but they dismissed them as poking holes. Anyone can poke holes in anything, they said. They even dragged out the old "N" word -- "naysayer". When you use the word "naysayer," you've given up on winning the argument, and you're treating the audience as a mindless mob that you hope to sway.

The latest TV ad -- stark black lettering on a white background -- says that Tulsa County wasn't built on "no," and that young adults prefer cities who say yes.

I don't know about that, but I know that young adult males prefer young adult females who say yes. (But only up to a point; a "girl who cain't say no" tends to be used and discarded by the men in who flit in and out of her life. Consult this book for details. And plenty of "cities who say yes" have found themselves treated in a similar way by the big companies and sports teams they've said yes to. Find 'em, fleece 'em, and forget 'em.)

Casinos prefer gamblers who say yes. Vacation timeshare salesmen prefer people who say yes to buying a week's worth of condo. Saying no cuts into their bottom line.

You have to say no to the wrong things in order to have the opportunity to say yes to the right things.

A lot of "no" went into building Tulsa County. Building a successful business, building a stable family, building institutions like churches and schools and political parties and civic clubs all require saying "no" to one's own tendencies to slothfulness and selfishness.

George Kaiser, I suspect, is a man of self-discipline and self-denial. He built his life, his family, and his business on saying "no": No to blowing off homework. No to getting drunk and sleeping through his Harvard classes. No to abandoning his wife and children for a trophy wife. No to ruinous extravagance. No to too-good-to-be true business deals. No to bad bank loans. Those are all good noes. I'd bet he's said a lot more noes (implicit or explicit) than yesses in his life. Every yes to the right thing required at least one no or maybe many noes to the wrong thing.

Tulsa County voters have very limited options on Tuesday. The County Commissioners are only allowing us to say yes to their river proposal. If we want to say yes to a different approach to financing and developing the river, we must first say no to the one on Tuesday's ballot.

Wouldn't it have been nice if they'd offered us a multiple choice?

1. TULSA COUNTY VOTE: The low-water dams -- two new, one old. (I'll take their word that the three dams work as a system.)

(A) Use the Vision 2025 money you already have to fix Zink Lake and to proceed with engineering and the permitting application on the other two dams. Once you get the permits (if you get them), you can come back and ask us for more money (assuming we don't have enough in Vision 2025 and haven't received that Federal $50 million).

(B) Raise our county sales taxes now by four-tenths of a cent for 18 months to fund the dams.

(C) Raise our county sales taxes now by that annoying 1/12th of a cent for seven years to fund the dams.

2. CITY OF TULSA VOTE: The living river and the kayaking area. (The kayaking area seems to have been lumped in with the Zink Dam modifications. It's not entirely clear.)

(A) Raise our city sales taxes by (appropriate amount and duration) to pay for these projects.

(B) Not now.

3. CITY OF TULSA VOTE: West bank land acquisition and preparation.

(A) Raise our city sales taxes by (appropriate amount and duration) to buy and prep the land.

(B) Use a TIF district (no tax rate increase) to fund buying and preparing the land.

(C) Don't do either.

4. CITY OF TULSA VOTE: 41st St bridge.

(A) Raise our city sales taxes by (appropriate amount and duration) to build a $15 million "Cadillac" pedestrian bridge

(B) Raise our city sales taxes by (appropriate amount and duration) to build a $5 million "Chevy"
pedestrian bridge

(C) Raise our city sales taxes by (appropriate amount and duration) to build a $20 million traffic and pedestrian bridge at 41st St. (ARMCP chapter 10 estimate from 2005 was about $13 million for this kind of bridge.)

(D) None of the above.

5. CITY OF TULSA VOTE: 61st St bridge.

(A) Raise our city sales taxes by (appropriate amount and duration) to build a $15 million "Cadillac" pedestrian bridge

(B) Raise our city sales taxes by (appropriate amount and duration) to build a $5 million "Chevy"
pedestrian bridge

(C) None of the above.

6. CITY OF TULSA VOTE: Downtown connector

(A) Raise our city sales taxes by (appropriate amount and duration) for $15 million to explore and maybe build or maybe just study a "downtown connector," whatever the heck that is.

(B) Raise our city sales taxes by (appropriate amount and duration) for $2 million to explore and maybe build or maybe just study a "downtown connector," whatever the heck that is.

(C) None of the above.

The private donors could have then decided which of the outcomes were necessary conditions for their donations. The proponents and opponents could have presented voters with the pros and cons for each proposition.

The choices above would allow voters to say yes to some choices and no to others. I count about 78 different ways to say yes to river development, and one way to say no to everything.

The County Commissioners have once again set up a false dilemma: We can't get what we want unless they get what they want.

You want funding for research centers at our state college campuses? You want to update the convention center? You can't have either of those things, we were told four years ago, unless you vote to build an arena.

There are other ways to create the kind of places we all seem to want on the river. There are ways to "make our river happen" that don't hinder the ability of cities to finance basic public services. There are ways to "make our river happen" that don't raise tax rates.

The reason we weren't offered those alternatives is because they don't give County Commission what they want -- control of that four-tenths of a cent that Tulsa County voters approved for the Boeing 7E7 final assembly plant, a tax that never went into effect because Boeing stayed in Washington state. The county wants to tie up that money before the municipalities get hold of it.

Meanwhile, the construction companies want a plan that includes as much excavation and concrete pouring and heavy construction work as possible. A plan that just finishes the promised low-water dams doesn't accomplish that.

I can't read his mind or his heart, but I suspect Mr. Kaiser was after a plan that would build the concept developed by Bing Thom and the other consultants that were paid by his foundation, with the pedestrian bridges and the channelization of the river. A plan that only has what Tulsans seem to want most -- the low-water dams and a commercial promenade on the west bank -- doesn't accomplish his vision.

If saying no makes you a naysayer, the real naysayers in the current situation are the County Commissioners who said no to viable alternatives that were brought to their attention before they scheduled Tuesday's tax increase election. They chose to say no, not just to the alternative approaches, but no to the people who brought them forward. They chose to trust completely those people who said there's no way to make the river happen without raising county sales tax. They chose to dismiss alternatives out of hand and to turn their backs on the erstwhile supporters who offered them.

If saying no makes you a naysayer, George Kaiser is a naysayer, too. In person and through representatives, he was informed of the problems with his proposal and was offered alternative approaches that avoided those problems. He was evidently satisfied with the bargains he had struck with various officials and interest groups, so he said no to exploring the alternatives.

Credible alternatives are inconvenient to the proponents, because the existence of a credible alternative demolishes their carefully crafted false dilemma -- the illusion that the only choices are their way or not at all.

Jay Cronley asked in his column yesterday, "How will a No vote help the community or anybody in it?"

A no vote gives Tulsa County a chance to craft a river development plan that balances the desire to do something on the river with other civic needs.

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8 Comments

Ardent Author Profile Page said:

Once again you've hit this square on the head. When one side resorts to name calling, they've conceded the debate.
It's too bad we don't have enough time to dig deeper (pardon the pun) into the whole aspect of dredging and channeling into the bedrock. This alone should give the large community of geoscientists in our community real concern.
The overriding issue to me is still that the actual ballot proposition says pretty much nothing about what is to be done and how it is to be evaluated. If the Corps will not approve the plans that are finally produced, the funds could literally be used for anything, and the County Commissioners could say truthfully that they were not misdirecting the funds.
Thanks again for taking the considerable time and effort in producing these well-reasoned logical pieces.

s said:

This campaign is like writing a blank check. George Kaiser is a one of the richest people in America. Do you honestly think only this year he can give the donation and same with the other private donors which can lead to other corruption from tax payer money being spent without someone like Michael Bates overseeing if contractors are charging too much for their services, businesses being favored over others such as we have seen in political corruption in the Stipe scandals.

This has been quoted from an interview with Applekamp.. "Gene Stipe, Steve Phipps, Mike Mass and other scum sucking souless organisms stole taxpayer money in order to betray democracy and advance the political careers of Governor Brad Henry, U.S.Representative Dan Boren, Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahan and others. Tulsa Today asked Applecamp how would he fight the practice of unidentified legislative earmarks that made those crimes possible if he won. Applekamp's answer was that there is a practice of "logrolling" where you put many different items in one bill so that much of the components are not identifiable. His goal is to break apart and simplify each and every bill so the people (taxpayers) can see exactly what is going on.
This "logrolling" is similar to the River Tax vote -- they have put many things rolled into this one River Tax vote without a firm accountability of how things have been well thought out and approved by the Corps of Engineers and others, that we have to vote on October 9th or all of these extremely rich donors will just be unwilling to help Tulsa next year should real plans be well documented and justified? I point out that Michael Bates asked
different people for financial figures yet he got the run around and still had to wait.

An accountable person that is going to be in charge of all of the Vision and River Tax money and Vision financial plan should be able to go to their computer and instantly pull of the figures Michael Bates was asking for. It should not take Perry to have to be the only one that knows how to get the information and yet still Michael got the name of the person to ask for his questions and still got held up on any real facts and answers. This should put red flags way up and tell you something is very wrong with the accountability of those.

There are other investigations that have happened in other areas of Oklahoma where money was given to water purposes where others never asked to be accountable yet state taxpayer money was given to foundations in Oklahoma that have connections with others as to give the impression we get the blank check and spend it as we wish ....no one especially the Tulsa taxpayers will ever know how we really spend it or hold us accountable once the vote is passed.

We ask how did Gene Stipe cheat and finally take so long to be convicted of all of the wrong he has done over the years in the State Senate? Where are all of the people we elected to Oklahoma Senate been to open their eyes on the accountability of former State Sen. Gene Stipe is who a convicted felon? How does it feel to have his name in the rotunda and did he ever pay all of his money due for that or did it get paid for with another Oklahoma funded scheme he got away with?

If we keep closing our eyes, and the yes people are afraid to answer questions from investigative reporter Michael Bates who has been the number one reporter on this River Tax by far, we will keep paying higher and higher taxes with our eyes shut on knowing the real truth about where all of our taxpayer money is being spent and what developers are making a bundle with our tax dollars, how contractors could be favored over others and charged more than they should be paid, etc.

s said:

Something else that has been reported on is that Kathy Taylors home at 2811 South Columbia Place was appraised for $8,100,000.00 Following that assessment, Lobeck-Taylor filed a protest asserting the value to be $2.5 million. The Tulsa County Board of Equalization did reduce the value one year as a result of legal filings by Kathy Taylor to $6,500,000.

Lobeck-Taylor (Kathy Taylor our Mayor of Tulsa) and Robert E. Lorton III, publisher and president of the Tulsa World newspapers (World Publishing) filed similar legal action protesting assessment on their private homes using the same attorney William Doyle. Was this a cooperative effort and if so Mayor Tayor and the published of the Tulsa World newspaper cooperate in other financial matters?

Kathy Taylor also contributed a generous amount to Brad Henry's campaign when he was first running for governor -- and he rewarded her with the State job she held until she decided she wanted to run for Mayor of Tulsa which she won by spending approx. one million dollars between the Lobeck-Taylor contributions so that she could win in hiring professional p.r. people to gloss her campaign -- much of the same type of p.r. and huge amounts of money we are seeing spent in the vote yes campaign.

s said:

If the River Tax vote does pass, I think Michael Bates has earned the respect of many Tulsa voters to be given a paid position in the oversight of the money distribution, who receives it, if it is fair and honest.

My parents were involved in a 1999 bond vote where their historic neighborhood has new streets and water lines. One ONG supervisor said the concrete workers on that project were some of the worst he had ever seen. They hit my parents home gas line and knocked out their air and heating outside unit. It was never reimbursed by the City of Tulsa and it was documented in an ONG report because the concrete people that hit my parents gas line, they had to contact ONG to come out and fix it. The gas fumes in my parents home was so bad after the hit ONG had to come in with expensive equipment to make sure they were alright to stay in their home. It ruined their heating and air unit and an emergency one had to be ordered because it snowed and it was very cold. You would not believe the hassle and people that pass the buck on this project. They had workers tearing up my parents terrace that was horribly fixed months after I requested it over and over with people quitting their jobs or not returning phone calls as Michael Bates has experienced with answered
expertise how to get facts.

I say they need someone like Michael Bates to be in a paid oversight position for the City of Tulsa if this River Tax does pass where voters can also be informed through a web site how the project is going, where the money is spent, etc.

Rick Manson said:

Kaiser has come out saying that he will not be involved in another River plan if this doesn't pass. How can you say that we are saying no for a better plan, when there is a good chance that 1/3 of the financing of this plan will be gone?

Bates, I really use to respect your work. I think I probably even thought that every word you typed was fact, but after the whole Faith and Political Courage article I haven't thought of you as an open minded journalist and I now know that you write a bunch of crap. Just like your "opinion" that we are saying no just to get a better plan.

john Author Profile Page said:

I love the line, "Voting yes is positive, voting no is negative. And you wouldn't want to be negative, right?"

Here's some hyperbole for the yes voters out there that I'm pretty sure they're already familiar with. Never play a gimmick concept straight. If you can't win in the arena of facts, logic and reason then just change the argument to one of emotion.

anon said:

I view the Kaiser funding (and the other contributors) in the same light as one of those big "Going Out of Business" Sales at some local store. "SAVE 40%!!", which means on a normal $100 purchase, you'd pay only $60.

But, therein lies the problem; you'd have to pay $60 to save $40. Which doesn't take into account the fact that perhaps you don't have $60 to begin with.

And, you don't "save" $40, you SPEND $60.

sbtulsa Author Profile Page said:

where is the benevolence in the Kaiser "donation"? "I'll give you my money only if you build what I want"? "Oh and buy the way, I'll be giving it for a limited time only", so act now before its too late for me.

Sorry guys, but I don't see the Kaiser foundation as giving Tulsa a "gift". The gift and benevolence would be "What can I do to help", not "You're going to have to do this my way".

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 6, 2007 8:46 AM.

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