Streets presentation online

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Last week, Tulsa City Council researcher Jack Blair gave a presentation on Tulsa's streets and how we could fund their ongoing maintenance. The presentation puts the cost of street maintenance in the context of Tulsa's decline from one of America's most densely populated cities to one of the least densely populated, the fiscal constraints on the city, and the city's historical spending patterns on streets. One of the most interesting sections had to with the $615 million from third-penny and general obligation bond issue funds used to pay for utility projects. The utility projects (water, sewers, stormwater, solid waste) might have been funded with revenue from those utilities instead, freeing up that $615 million for street improvement.

The Tulsa World has Blair's 122-page PowerPoint presentation on Tulsa Streets on its website. It's in PDF format and about 22 MB. If for nothing else, it's worth a download to see the historic and present day photos of what were country crossroads and are now high-traffic intersections.

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sbtulsa Author Profile Page said:

This further reinforces something I have noticed in the Taylor adminstration. The tax base is becoming more and more disorganized. the coutny uses sales tax and the city may be poised to use property tax for its purposes.

Now we see from this presentation that the disorganization reaches further back in to time than Kathy Taylor. The hijacking of the third penny for purposes other than its original intent goes back decades.

Preserving the third penny for streets would have meant raising water rates some for the improvements paid for by the "penny", but on the other hand surplus funds in the water department might have been utilizd for this purpose rather than just ongoing operations. were there surpluses in the water department fund?

S. Lee Author Profile Page said:

I've lived in Tulsa long enough to recall that, some number of years ago, a normal summer thing was all the road repair going on. You just expected this in the summer. Then you didn't see it any more. I don't recall how far back the change happened. I'm thinking some time during the Savage era.

It's nice that some attention is being paid to the neglect. I'd say the very sudden public interest in the roads being shown by the elected ones is more out of concern for their jobs than for the roads. I think it's worth mentioning the 60 million bucks for the spiffy office digs. They are asking for public input on what to do. How about: Elect people who manage money better.

And I hope it isn't forgotten that the other prominent concern was crime. Don't forget about the crime.

Bob said:

Really a fascinating analysis by Mr. Blair.

He is to be commended.

A couple of observations on his analysis:

Much of our local street bond money and Third-Penny Sales tax has been diverted from streets and road improvement to water and sewer system improvements.

The WHY of this policy decision certainly deserves further analysis. I suspect that the root cause of this local public policy decision is the suburban developer/builder control of our local Water & Sewer Board, as well as their influence in controlling membership on our Tulsa city council.

Remember the Medlock-Mautino City Council Re-Call Election?? Why the Re-call?

The root of the matter had to do with 40 year fixed rate water contracts with Bixby and Owasso. Remember? Centering on the re-appointment of TMUA members Cameron and Reynolds?


Who largely funded the Re-call? GTAR and the Home Builders and Contractors local Cartel.

The TMUA has apparently made decades of decisions to favor the delivery of treated water to the fast-growing municipalities outside of the city of Tulsa at very low-cost rates subsidized in effect by the Citizens of Tulsa.

What generosity!

Another observation about getting our money's worth from existing Third Penny Sales Tax and Street Bond issues is the city's long-term practice of awarding street construction bid packages in VERY SMALL dollar allotments.

I suspect this is done to favor the smaller local road construction companies, and dissuade large, out-of-state road construction companies from gaining competitive advantage in local road construction bidding.

By structuring the bid packages in relatively small dollar parcels, the larger out-of-state companies cannot bring their large Economy-of-Scale road building crews and equipment to Tulsa.

Local road constructions companies Beeco and Sherwood Construction come to mind as principal beneficies of this Good-Old-Boys favored contracting practice. The Good-Old-Boys in turn reciprocate the favor by helping fund passage of every proposed tax renewal or tax increase.

An implicit Pay-to-Play quid-pro-quo.

Of course, by stacking the deck against large out-of-state road construction companies, it drives up the costs of our road construction, and as a result, our road-building tax dollars do not stretch as far. Another contributing factor to our chronic road building deficiencies.

Finally, Mr. Blair touches upon the Special Assessment as a potential source of road improvement funding, namely those who most directly benefit from road widening and intersection improvements, the land owners and home owners adjoining that major arterial or intersection, would pay a Special Assessment. Developer "push-back" was listed as the major negative on this funding source.

Tulsa formerly used a Special Assessment fee to help fund road improvements until someone curiously got that policy dropped back in the 1960's.

The Special Assessment abatement occured shortly after Mr. W.K. Warren's south Tulsa Land grab.

It would seem that thereafter Old W.K. got a 40 year free ride on the backs of the local Tulsa citizenry when the Special Assessment was abolished.

Another one of those very curious local public policy decisions that makes your go: Hummmmh.

Bob said:


Another factor in the miserable state of our local roads is the INCREASING amount of the Third Penny Sales Tax diverted from Street and Intersection improvements, and funneled instead into other "capital" expenditures.

Including funding for 800 police cars so that every local policeman can Take-Home their assigned police car.

Even if the policeman lives outside of the city limits of Tulsa. Mayor MisFortune, trying mightily to ingratiate himself with the militant local Police Union, expanded this ruinously expensive undertaking by allowing our police to take-home their assigned vehicle within a 25 mile radius of 41st and Yale.

If you will look at the expenditures for the Third Penny Sales tax since its inception, you will see a relatively FLAT level of expenditures for street and intersection improvements.

You will see an astronomical increase in the percentage of the third penny devoted to police and fire "capital" expenditures.

Additionally, sortieing $600K fire trucks for an EMT call is dumb public policy. The majority of fire truck "runs" are for an EMT call.

It wears out the fire trucks, which normally should last 15-20 years, 10x faster than just their intended purpose of sortieing to fight fires. And, it burns railroad tanker cars more of expensive fuel to sortie a 30-ton fire truck to answer an EMT call.

So, why NOT use an EMT vehicle that costs about 1/10th of the cost of a new firetruck?

Why not?

Another bond-headed public policy decision, haunting the beleagured Tulsa tax-payers for DECADES.

Step back and observe how the 1980 3rd Penny Sales Tax, which originated to improve streets and intersections has been gradually subsumed by general "capital" expenditures, especially for police, fire, water and sewer.

At its last renewal in 2006, the proportion of the tax devoted to street and intersection improvements had dwindled to about 28% of total 3rd Penny expeditures.

Our so-called leaders need to rethink their decades of seriously mis-guided public policy decision before ever coming to us to merely keep RAISING taxes again.

And, Again.

And, Again.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 30, 2007 5:50 AM.

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Tax Increment Financing (TIF): The Basics is the next entry in this blog.

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