Tracking PLANiTULSA

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Three gentlemen for whom I have a great deal of respect -- Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission chairman Bill Leighty, architect and PLANiTULSA Citizens Committee chairman Bob Sober, and Village at Central Park developer and Pearl District advocate Jamie Jamieson -- have launched an effort to hold city officials accountable for the implementation of PLANiTULSA, the comprehensive plan for the City of Tulsa crafted by thousands of citizens and formally adopted last year by the City Council and Mayor as the guiding document for Tulsa's future growth.1

The three have launched Tracking PLANiTULSA. Here's the mission statement:

During the PlaniTulsa process Tulsans envisioned a community with a vibrant and sustainable economy which attracts young people and provides transportation and housing choices in walk-able neighborhoods and town centers.

We seek to ensure that PlaniTulsa Vision is realized by vigorously advocating for the timely implementation of the resulting Comprehensive Plan.

Focusing on the Plan's guiding principles we will track, report and comment on progress in a fair and forthright manner until the Plan's implementation is fully realized.

If you're a Facebook member, you can show your support, participate, and keep up with the latest news by "liking" the Tracking PLANiTULSA page.

The Tracking PLANiTULSA initiative comes on the heels of concerns about the Bartlett Jr Administration's diligence and bona fides in moving forward to hire a planning director and to hire a firm to write a new zoning/land use code consistent with the recently adopted comprehensive plan. Those concerns were articulated by Leighty, Sober, and Jamieson in a recent Urban Tulsa Weekly story: "Delayed to Death?"

The mayor's detractors are particularly upset that 10 and a half months after the council adopted the new comprehensive plan, few, if any, of the six strategies outlined in the PLANiTULSA Draft Strategic Plan have been completed. The timelines set out for completion of many of those tasks -- including the hiring of a planning director to oversee a revamped and beefed-up community development department, and the updating of the city's zoning code -- were six months to a year.

"I met with the mayor in February, and Terry (Simonson, Bartlett's chief of staff) told me then this would all be done by now," Leighty said. "But by the time this thing gets done, it looks to me like the mayor is going to be nearing his third year in office."...

The article goes into detail about Bartlett Jr's delay in asking for funding for the initiative, about the problem with Bartlett Jr's plan to fund the effort with temporary surplus funds, the Council's work to provide a long-term funding solution for implementing PLANiTULSA, and concerns that delays in pursuing these first steps could jeopardize funding in future years for a planning department and the small area plans that are a key part of PLANiTULSA's ongoing implementation. Small area plans are there to provide for new growth while respecting the investments of homeowners and business owners affected by new development, and if done right, small area planning will keep our new comprehensive plan from becoming a dusty book on a shelf, as happened with the previous plan from the 1970s.

The Tracking PLANiTULSA organizers say they're not trying to dwell on how we got where we are, but trying to encourage the process to move forward:

Our group's Facebook page will be tracking, reporting and commenting on progress, and provides a forum for everyone to discuss progress.

Why form this group and create a Tracking PLANITULSA Facebook page?

Shortly after the adoption of the City's new Comprehensive Plan last July, several 'Citizens Committee' members suggested to Mayor Bartlett that he appoint a group of volunteers to track progress on the Plan's implementation - an offer that was politely declined.

Our growing uneasiness over the subsequent, lackluster progress culminated with the announcement of a new, Mayoral 'Vision 2020', and barely a mention of PlaniTulsa in development of the City's FY2012 proposed Budget. The Mayor's briefing memorandum sent to department heads in December didn't mention PLANITULSA at all.

We suggest the new Comprehensive Plan should have been the anchor and the core of the budget. The city arguably lost a whole fiscal year in adjusting to a Plan that forms the basis of a competitive, development strategy for Tulsa. The KPMG Report is a useful starting point for evaluating cost-efficiencies, but it is only that; it is not a popularly conceived vision document and it is not a development strategy. The city cannot achieve prosperity through cost cutting alone.

Please note our Mission Statement in the 'Notes' section. When you "LIKE" our page, you receive status updates on your Facebook wall so you can track our posts. In the coming weeks we will be adding "notes" and photo albums to illustrate for newcomers the Plan's visionary concepts for Tulsa's future Land Use, Transportation, Economic Development and Housing goals. We hope you will contribute content too.

I've joined, and I hope you will, too.


1 Speaking of future growth, it's often forgotten that PLANiTULSA has its origins in the 2003 efforts of then-Councilors Chris Medlock and Joe Williams to create a future growth task force, to find a positive way to deal with contentious land use issues and encourage new development within the city limits of Tulsa. Medlock and Williams managed to win the support of two-thirds of the Council, but Mayor Bill LaFortune refused to back the effort without support of at least eight councilors, support that was withheld by Art Justis, Randy Sullivan, and Bill Christiansen. The rationale for the task force stated:

Tulsa's growth could no longer run unabated to the southeast because we were now hemmed in by Bixby and Broken Arrow. As such, the City of Tulsa was going to have to find new areas for growth. Areas that were less appealing for numerous reasons (geographic, geological, demographic, etc.) than the suburbs. Therefore, strategies and plans needed to be devised to compete with market forces that would serve to build up the suburbs and cause Tulsa growth to stagnate.

That focus on encouraging growth in Tulsa won Medlock and his council allies the enmity of suburban homebuilders and was a contributing factor in the unsuccessful 2004/2005 recall effort against Medlock and Councilor Jim Mautino. Just a few years later, and it seems to be a given that the City of Tulsa should be assertive about pursuing its own growth and development and competing effectively with the suburbs.

I outlined the history leading up to PLANiTULSA in the final segment of my final column for Urban Tulsa Weekly. Back to story

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 28, 2011 12:13 AM.

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