TulsaNow 10th anniversary reception tonight

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The organization TulsaNow will celebrate its 10th anniversary tonight, July 15, 2011, with a reception at Harwelden, 2210 S. Main. Refreshments and hors d'oeuvres from Lambrusco'z at 5:30, presentation begins at 6. The organization will unveil plans for the future and will hand out a few awards to the winners of a vote by members of the TulsaNow email newsletter list.

I've been involved with the group since before it had a name, although travel and other busy-ness has had me less involved in the last couple of years.

TulsaNow was organized in 2001 following the defeat of the "It's Tulsa's Time" sales tax increase in November 2000. Back in a 2007 UTW column, I detailed the history of the TulsaNow organization to that point:

TulsaNow has its origins in early 2001, with a gathering of friends who were discouraged about the defeat of another flawed civic improvements sales tax package. ("It's Tulsa's Time," November, 2000.) The four founding members were all active in community organizations, but none of them were in positions of power and influence. They began working their networks to find other Tulsans from all parts of the community who shared their sense of urgency to get Tulsa moving again.

I was invited to participate a few months later and have been involved ever since, for the last few years as a board member. (So there's that disclosure out of the way.)

TulsaNow attracted many people who were frustrated that Tulsa's elected officials and Chamber of Commerce leaders suffered from a cargo-cult-like fixation on building a new arena as the solution to all our problems, while places like Kansas City and Salt Lake City were using their long-term community visioning efforts to address neighborhood integrity, historic preservation, land-use policies, suburban sprawl, and revitalization of the urban core--all issues that matter to a city's livability and long-term vitality.

Members of the group were involved in the process that led up to the Vision 2025 vote, helping to facilitate the discussions and tabulate all the responses at Mayor Bill LaFortune's July 2002 vision summit and participating in various task forces. (The complete vision summit report--with the presentations and all of the responses from the participants--is still online at http://www.tulsanow.org/summit/index.htm.)

TulsaNow's October 2002 "Battle of the Plans" brought out big crowds to hear from enthusiastic Tulsans present their dreams for the city.

Although members differed as to whether the final package was worthy of our support, TulsaNow's involvement did at least encourage the inclusion of funds for downtown residential development, a trail of historical markers (the Centennial Walk), neighborhood enhancements, and river improvements. And TulsaNow hosted what was perhaps the most substantive debate during the sales tax campaign.

While many elected officials considered the passage of Vision 2025 to be the end of the discussion about Tulsa's future, TulsaNow's leaders saw much work to be done in shaping a genuine and comprehensive vision for the city, an attitude reflected in its mission statement:

"TulsaNow's mission is to help Tulsa become the most vibrant, diverse, sustainable and prosperous city of our size. We achieve this by focusing on the development of Tulsa's distinctive identity and economic growth around a dynamic, urban core, complemented by a constellation of livable, thriving communities."

My column went on to mention several of TulsaNow's public discussions, such as the 2005 "Passing the Popsicle Test" forum on form-based codes as an alternative to traditional use-segregated zoning and another forum on zoning and land use in September 2006. TulsaNow sponsored city candidate forums in 2002, 2004, and 2006, and a public debate on the 2007 county river tax proposal. In 2008, TulsaNow stole a march on the city's official, paid downtown promoters by launching the DowntownLive website, a catalog of downtown merchants and restaurants.

I think it's fair to say that TulsaNow, particularly through the public events the group has sponsored, helped stimulate public discussion about land use and planning, laying the groundwork for the successful PLANiTULSA process. PLANiTULSA's focus on public engagement wouldn't have worked without a large segment of the public that understands the importance of land use and planning to our city's ongoing quality of life and our city government's ability to pay its bills.

While the adoption of a new comprehensive plan represents a milestone toward the goals that drew many of us to TulsaNow, we still need the principles in the comp plan implemented in the zoning code, and we need a planning director, planning commission, and elected officials willing to be guided by our new plan. Perhaps TulsaNow still has a role to play in bringing these ideas to fruition.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 15, 2011 12:05 PM.

Tulsa Election 2011: Filings, Day 3 was the previous entry in this blog.

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