Tulsa County citizens win

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Thanks to Tulsa County voters for turning down the problematic Tulsa County river sales tax, there's now an opportunity, if elected officials are willing to take it, to put together an approach to river development that avoids the pitfalls of the proposal that the voters rejected.

It's likely, though, that after trying to convince voters that the false dilemma set up by the County Commissioners was a true dilemma, that their way was the only way to make our river happen, that they've convinced themselves as well. They're probably going to need some time to detoxify and deprogram themselves from their own propaganda.

The Tulsa City Council should start the process of establishing a west bank Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district. We can do private riverfront development in Tulsa the same way they're doing it in Jenks and Bixby.

The County Commission should announce their resolve to move ahead with engineering work and permitting on the two new low-water dams and Zink Dam modifications.

The story linked above quotes PMg environmental manager Gaylon Pinc:

"This is a turning point for Tulsa," said Pinc. "I've heard nothing but criticism from Tulsa residents about why we've done nothing with the river for 40 years. And now they say they don't want to do anything."

That's not true, Gaylon, and I think after a few days to come down from the intensity of the campaign, you'll come to recognize that this wasn't a rejection of the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan, but of the tax increase and the extraneous projects in this tax package.

The issue now becomes how to proceed, since securing Army Corp of Engineers permits will require completion of engineering work. But just designing the two-low water dams and the Zink dam modifications could cost $4 million, he said - almost half the funds available through Vision 2025. Doing design work on the estimated $90 million in river channel modifications would more than consume the rest.

"Do you spend it, or hold on to that money or wait until you have enough money to build it?" he said, raising the question that county and Vision 2025 leaders now face. "Do you spend all the money you have to design something you can't afford to build?"

Yes, you do, because the County Commission asked the voters four years ago if they wanted two low-water dams and improvements to Zink Lake, and they said yes. So you pursue permitting on the dams. Once the permits are granted, we'll know how much the dams will really cost, and we'll know where we stand financially -- whether Federal dollars will be available and whether Vision 2025 revenues outstrip John Piercey's projections. If it looks like we don't have enough for those three projects, that's the time for the County to come back to voters and ask for enough to finish the job, just like Oklahoma City asked for a MAPS tax extension to finish the MAPS projects.

As for the $90 million for channel modification, if Pinc and others feel that it is worthy of incorporating in the ARCMP, that concept needs to be put through a process for consideration as an amendment to the ARCMP, a matter that would be decided by the planning commission, County Commission, and City Council.

The people who were at the No River Tax watch party tonight at Sadie's aren't against river development. I feel certain that everyone there would be willing to work with the elected officials and civic leaders who supported the tax to develop a plan that moves river development forward without forcing a tax rate increase.

MORE: Ted Streuli writes in the Journal Record that Jenks will bypass Tulsa, and we're all short-sighted, just like when we rejected the aquarium. What he doesn't tell you is that the City of Tulsa park board and Mayor Susan Savage put the kibosh on a Tulsa Aquarium on the river, not the voters of Tulsa. He also doesn't seem to be aware that this was a county-wide vote.

And Bobby of Tulsa Topics cheers the victory and hands out laurels to the victors: "Tonight, I actually have a glimmer of hope for Tulsa. Instead of taking the flim flam spin of the PR Meisters hook, line, and sinker, you actually decided giving a blank check to our wondrous County Commissioners may be a less than optimal use of your tax dollars. Tulsa County voters..... I salute you!"

UPDATE: Steve Roemerman has pictures from the No River Tax watch party (raise the roof!) and explains why it's time to stick a fork in Randi Miller's political career.

UPDATE 2007/10/10, 8:00 p.m.:

Jeff Shaw draws from a personal anecdote to think about the gap between the yesses and noes yesterday:

Tonight in Tulsa, there are people living in and around the neighborhoods where the Honorable Mayor resides and other affluent areas, scratching their heads and wondering: "Exactly how did this wonderful idea of improving the river get away from us?"

I'll share with you a couple of my thoughts....

If you've ever had to send your child to Cleveland Middle School, or Gilcrease, or Monroe, or McClain, or any of their really crappy feeder schools, you might not worry too much about whether some YP will be able to kayak through the man-made fjords of the new and improved Arkansas River, built, by the way, especially for YP's.

Stan Geiger thinks this is a bigger victory than the point spread indicates:

The yes camp had to have spent over a million bucks on TV ads. The no camp ran none. The yes camp virtually owned the free airspace, too. No local station held any bilateral forums on the matter. For George Kaiser to show up in front of a camera was akin to a vampire walking in the noonday sun. Nonetheless, KOTV gave him an uncontested platform from which he preached his sermon. Hanson was allowed a solo as well. The list of public endorsers read like a who's who. And the big, daily newspaper gave itself in total to the pro-tax crowd.

In spite of all that, the measure failed. The mouse vanquished the elephant. Substance defeated style.

This is the first contested tax election I can remember where there was not even one televised debate, and even the joint appearances at community forums were billed not as debates but "informational meetings," designed to prevent one side from directly challenging the assertions of the other side.

David Schuttler has a photo essay of some of our existing river parks, pointing out that we're not doing a very good job of taking care of the "gathering places" we already have. But you can still see plenty of wildlife -- he spotted a bald eagle rather early in the season.

(And you remember correctly, David: There was a time when you could take steps up to a deck on top of the pedestrian bridge, when the bridge walkway stopped halfway across the river.)

Mad Okie has some kind words for me and (more deservedly) for the courageous elected officials who stood against the tax "for not bowing to the county and standing up and speaking up FOR their constituents."

Here's the precinct-by-precinct tally of the result from the Tulsa World. The World also has a precinct map showing where the tax passed and where it failed. It would be interesting to see a "heat map" -- indicating by depth of color the margin of support or opposition in each precinct. (I'd love to have the tools to make that kind of map myself.)


See-Dubya said:

Congrats on a good fight and a good result!

s said:

Has anyone seen the ad "Tulsa is moving South"

Jenks will continue to do very well and it won't take ten years or more as Mayor Taylor said to develop along the river. Jenks has been successful with the developer that built Riverwalk Crossing and brought those retail and restaurant places. Sharon King Davis has been successful to already bring the retail and restaurant places near 101st and Riverside Drive.

Outback Restaurant, more retail shops including a bike shop, a hamburger restaurant and J, Carinos Italian restaurant stay very busy and are all successful. Home developers have already built along 121st and riverside going up to Yale, etc. Bixby developers will continue as they have without this vote being passed, and Tim Remy's development at about 105th and Memorial is doing great. There will soon be an Applebee's added to Bixby, a new sports and grill, a new hotel, and many other thriving places that will help Bixby bring new tax dollars to help them continue to grow.

Bixby's mayor did not need to travel to Las Vegas to try to get businesses to move here, but I am sure he and others enjoyed their trip.

With Kathy Taylor going to much more expensive locations (didn't she go to China?) to help Tulsa's development. We haven't seen any good from that trip yet, but Bixby and Jenks sure are thriving without her.

It's not the new Economic Develop Director that is helping Bixby grow, it's actually developers like Tim Remy and all of those builders that are and have built expensive homes in Bixby that have made Bixby grow. Their school system is well run thanks a lot to the help M.J.Bias did when she was there--political frustrations with the school board at Bixby made her leave but Bixby gained another Supt. from Broken Arrow High School that should continue to do well in their replacement of Bias. Bixby band won state last year and is continuing to do great this year. Well run school systems like Jenks and Bixby says a lot to where people want to live and raise their children.

When you have people that can afford to spend their money at retail and restaurants and live in expensive homes, developers are sure to want to develop there on their on nickel instead of trying to push the yes vote.

Booksider said:

I have been disappointed in the viciousness of the comments seen in the local paper. The opponents of the development had many, varied reasons for their position; some were just avarice, others taxes, trust, and priorities. The defeat of this vote in the face of such a media blitz would indicate considerable dissatisfaction with city and county administration in general. The philanthropists who offered such a generous gift in support of the development should be thanked. Our community is lucky to have such people, and I hope they will return to the table when a better plan is offered. They make possible important quality-of-life contributions such as parks and museums.

It was the plan, the plan, the plan. Better plan, better results.

The city and county personalities had some play in this defeat. The One Technology Center and Bell's will haunt these administrations until they leave office. I found it telling when Mayor Taylor called the One Technology Center her "legacy" and said it would spur renewal of downtown. People do not care where the mayor's office is until they are unhappy with her. Govern well, and you legacy will take care of itself.

Brooksider Author Profile Page said:

Jenks and the other suburban communities will continue to thrive, and Tulsa will also. It will take better leadership. As for King's Landing, it is all chain outlets, all with 360 parking so none of the business has any physical connection to each other, and none face the river. It could as well be at 41st & Yale. River development makes the river an integral part of the business. Jenks Riverwalk does a reasonable job of that. People don't have to walk from parking lot to parking lot.

It is regrettable that the community became so divided and antagonistic over what many thought was a flawed plan. We are all in the same boat, on the same river, and need to treat it and each other gently.

MMcN Author Profile Page said:

I posted this comment on the Streuli column in the Journal Record:

Your math isn't much better than the rest of your analysis. 0.4% of $100 is forty cents, not four.

And the focus on pothole repair is as facile as the rest of the Yes supporters' arguments. There are dozens of reasons to support or oppose this plan. I'm in favor of river development, but not via this mess of a non-plan administered by this mess of a county commission. Some tax-increment financing focused on specific projects benefiting specific areas will be much more palatable, and politically feasible, than a county-wide tax that provides little benefit to the fastest-growing areas of the county.

Kemah's an example of doing it right. It was a local effort by Kemah, not part of a behemoth master project by Galveston County. If they'd tried to do it the was the Our River people did -- taxing the entire county for the benefit of revitalizing the Kemah waterfront -- it never would have gotten off the ground.

And there's plenty of river development going on already, without this plan, by other people who "know how to turn a buck", and more to come.

I'll bet that at least ten percent of those who voted No would have voted Yes to a more modest plan, more honestly presented, and that would have turned the tide.

s said:

The news coverage last night at the north tulsa watch party kept asking Roscoe T. his thoughts as though the win of the race was due primarily to north Tulsa voters being fed up. The no votes came from all over Tulsa County.

The private donors are still able to generously donate their financial resources to help. With Kaiser in all of his banking and real estate expertise and as one of the richest people in America, he absolutely has the ability to continue to personally donate generously as well as the other donors. Look at the endowment fund of the University of Tulsa -- the donations are significant and also look at all of the vast improvement just in looks alone of the University of Tulsa with the Hardesty and Case contributions as well. They both never depended on tax increases for their generous giving. I love how Mr. Hardesty is giving to the building of that new area at the Hardesty library.

Along the Arkansas river we have Helmerich Park, the Helmerich's have also generously given a huge OSU donation as well as many places around Tulsa that many Tulsa voters should appreciate. On Yale we have LaFortune Park, not far from 91st on Memorial is Hardesty Library, Helmerich Library isn't far from the Hardesty Library, the names of generous contributors go on and on in Tulsa.

Just because the no vote won, and with all of the massive money spent in the yes campaign they even had their "yes" headquarters address printed wrong -- anybody think their headquarters is South Carolina? :)

jasonk Author Profile Page said:

Thank you, Batesline, for the information you made available to the public. This is one source that the public can count on for balanced information, something that is not easy to come by these days.

Thank you also, for posting a link to my blog. I can't say that it made much of a difference in this issue, but I like to think that it did. I will be adding this site, and several others I have learned about in this process, permanently in my sidebar.

You are much appreciated.

Ron said:

Michael thank-you for all of your hard work on this issue. Great meeting you at OKWU yesterday. I posted the following on Tulsa World's opinion page web page and on the web page following their article on the tax today:

The Real Nay-Sayers:
The real Nay-Sayers are the Tulsa World & the Taylor/Miller/Tulsa Metro Chamber trifecta:
Think of these as the goat on the new Afflac commercial. The goat keeps saying "Nay" when they consider the following:
1. Citizens holding on to their money
2. City rule and control of their tax base
3. Paying for priorities first (roads, cops, water in pools, lights on the interstate,)
4. Taxation without benefit (Broken Arrow, Owasso & other non-river cities)
5. Small county gov't
6. Private investment vs gov't favored/sanctioned investment
7. Having a Corp of Engineer approved plan for the river with specific details
8. Conservative Gov't financial principles
9. City self determination
10. Consider the needs of North, East Tulsa
Nay, Nay, Nay by the World & the Trifecta.
The voters had a real Tulsa Tea Party. We should all empty a tea bag into the river today (it won't change the color of the river at all!). I hope the large private contributions will be re-directed to real needs in Tulsa - schools, pools for the kids, economic incubators that can grow new, small business and thus grow the tax base. The private dollars can also be use to build the dams on the river or help buy land for a Tulsa Landing etc. I hope the contributors will understand that we appreciate their generosity even with the NO vote. These individuals and organizations should be commended and a NO vote isn't a vote against them or their generosity. It is a vote against county government getting involved in areas (sales tax) reserved for the cities and it is a vote against misplaced priorities by the city of Tulsa. You cannot grow a great city around crumpling infrastructure, oppressive crime, and failing schools. The truly 'progressive' people spoke - we understand that progress must follow sound priorities. A city built on firm priorities will stand, one built on image only will fail. Thank-you Tulsa for voting for priorities.

Drew said:

Somebody help me out here...Weren't we told BEFORE the vote that this would be the "last opportunity" to develop the river for "20 years" or something like that?

Why, then, was Randi Miller ALREADY talking about this Dead Tax Walking coming back from its well-deserved and unlamented grave at the "Yes" watch party last night?

channel 6 voting results said:

Voting no, North Tulsa voters are just a fraction of the Tulsa County voters but because their people actually went to the polls to vote 80% in their district voted no.

Broken Arrow was 15% of the no vote and North Tulsa was 10% of the no vote.

Since aerospace is doing well again, wouldn't it be great if they could build one of those big businesses in north Tulsa. They have good roads near the airport and near the zoo, and land that looks as though it should be for sale with empty and run down buildings out there.

Mark Sanders said:

Congratulations Michael! I've been watching and admiring your efforts from afar. I'm engaged in a similarly combative and uphill election battle up here, so I wasn't able to digest all of the river tax debate. I did want you to know, however, that your rhetorical skills did not go unnoticed. I'm not really sure it gets any better than the following:

"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."

Priceless. Now go get some rest!

THe Big Kielbasa said:


Tulsa: Eleventy Billion
Michael Bates: 1

Greg Thorne Author Profile Page said:

This is Greg Thorne, who used to run bitweever.com a while back. I'm in OKC for a while, but will be coming back to Tulsa in December. I was looking for great coverage of the River Tax, so I came to your site.

Anyway, I wanted to pass this tidbit along to you. There's a video of Kathy Taylor on kotv.com of her talking about the river tax. It shows how completely she doesn't get it (had to try this link in a couple of different browsers before it worked):

Apparently, "The river is not a priority for the citizens." I thought Tulsa only voted down the tax, not all involvement on the river. Can you say "out-of-touch"?

Will we ever know said:

Considering there are a number of steps and requirements when approving any large bank loan, you would hope that the Kaiser Foundation would expect proven evidence that the river project had been well planned and thought out which is was not.

Great Plains Airlines was also a huge risk, but as far as I know Bank of Oklahoma approved that loan on about the third try. Did BOK write it off as a bad loan or expect the City of Tulsa to come to Bank of Oklahoma's rescue when Great
Plains airline went into bankruptcy.

channel 8 news said:

Jenks plans to take Mayor Kathy Taylor to court over the toll bridge

susan said:

No answers yet on how much Richard and Lindsey Roberts get paid yearly from Oral Roberts University in yearly salary including all of their many personal home remodelling projects, the money spent on cars and excessive spending on clothes as well as many unanswered questions involving possible misuse of ORU ministry funds. Richard Roberts apologized on Channel 6 today to the City of Tulsa for the misunderstanding after all these years it has suddenly come to his attention with the lawsuit he never realized it's possible it was ORU's seed faith money people give for the university that paid for all those personal family expenses.

susan said:

After reading one of the New York newspaper stories on Richard Roberts, their paper photographed Richard Roberts at a side angle. It reminded me of Pinocchio who had to prove himself truthful and unselfish.

The nation wants the truth on the ORU wrongful termination lawsuit and these other allegations.... just not the City of Tulsa.

ORU should be setting the standard for truthful behavior and they should be to the upmost in accountability of the money that is received to the highest standard for ORU ministry "needs" not wants.

susan said:

Michael, if the professors win their case against ORU, your son might want to draw Richard Roberts nose growing longer while holding a chicken nugget standing for what Roberts says there is a "nugget of truth" in what ORU has been accused of.

If ORU comes clean and Richard Roberts can prove their ministry has done nothing suspicious of foul behavior, an artist might want to draw ORU's praying hands holding the "nugget".

One student felt so frustrated, he said he would be changing universities for spring semester and leaving Oral Roberts because other ORU students have questioned how much they are expected to pay in tuition room and board when there is said to be millions coming in donations for the purpose of the ORU ministry.

One college that has the extreme difference that passes on how successful they are to the students is Pensacola Christian College. Their president lives modestly and so does his wife. Their campus is even more beautiful, and the college graduates students that become doctors, terrific nurses, all types of business majors, students majoring in education that become teachers and students that wish to be full-time ministry. The price to attend is a bargain.

XonOFF said:

Bates: "(I'd love to have the tools to make that kind of map myself.)"


XonOFF, thanks for the link. At $245, a lot of people are going to have to take out ads or hit my tip jar before I can justify buying it.

XonOFF said:

I can tell you don't shop GIS much, otherwise you'd be shrieking "ONLY $245??!!".

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 10, 2007 1:18 AM.

River tax election day notes was the previous entry in this blog.

AP story on Tulsa County sales tax defeat; Gordon plans private dam funding is the next entry in this blog.

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