TulsaNow opposes Vision2

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This week civic group TulsaNow announced the organization's opposition to the Vision2 county sales tax scheme. Tulsa Now is a civic organization that was founded in 2001 to promote discussion and strategic thinking about Tulsa's present and future. Here's TulsaNow's official statement; I'll have a few comments to follow.

tulsaNow-logo.pngTulsaNow is a non-profit group who supports forward-thinking zoning, development and public-dollar reinvestment. We were formed over a decade ago based on the desire to push Tulsa forward and immediately began helping the effort that became Vision2025.

The idea of a program to follow in the footsteps of Vision2025 is very exciting to us, but we would not be a responsible organization if we did not take a critical eye to every project that effects the issues that we support.

Our organization has been studying and discussing Vision2 since the name was first mentioned only a few months ago. We have researched, considered and debated every aspect of the project and how it was put together. On September 26th, our governing board met to decide if we had an official position on Vision2, and here are the results.

On Proposition 1, for economic development, we found that:

1. There is insufficient emphasis given towards promoting diverse and sustainable industries.

2. The closing fund did not have adequate guidance over how the money should be spent, and the citizens are not fairly represented in those decisions.

3. The closing fund has no set collection limit and is projected to collect far more than originally advertised. This means the citizens lack direct influence not only on how the money is spent, but how much is spent.

Because of these three factors, our board unanimously voted to Oppose proposition 1.

On proposition 2, for quality of life projects, we found that:

1. The vote is improperly rushed as the tax collections and spending cannot begin until 2017. This time could be spent collecting public input, planning and prioritizing. In addition, the amount of time between when the project was originally proposed, and the day of election, was not sufficient.

2. The City of Tulsa, and other municipalities, can only "ask" for projects. The ultimate control over what gets funded is held by the County. Additionally, the areas where the tax money is spent and the area where the tax money is collected do not coincide well. This may be more appropriate as a City tax and not County.

3. While many of the projects proposed coincide with the priorities of PlaniTulsa, little or no focus was given towards redevelopment and transportation issues which are key components of PlaniTulsa. Additionally, little or no focus was given towards the areas of the city deemed to be the most in need of public dollar reinvestment.

While Vision2 may fund many projects that we are passionately in support of, because of these three factors our board voted to Oppose proposition 2. This vote was not unanimous.

Some background to put this announcement in perspective:

While I am a member of TulsaNow's board, and have been for many years, I am at one extreme of the spectrum when it comes to tax elections. Most, if not all, of the other members on the board enthusiastically supported Vision 2025 and the River Tax in 2007, so their rejection of Vision2 is notable. I tend to put the burden of proof on the proponents of a tax package; most of the other board members would give any tax package the benefit of the doubt. A tax package would have to be especially odious to overcome their inclination to vote yes. Nevertheless, the board unanimously voted to oppose Proposition 1; the vote on Proposition 2 was nearly unanimous.

TulsaNow was founded in 2001 by four individuals from the Terwilliger Heights neighborhood -- former Mayor Rodger Randle, TV personality Karen Keith, arts leader Linda Frazier, and local historian Marilyn Inhofe Tucker, who were frustrated after the defeat of "It's Tulsa's Time" in November 2000, the second attempt to pass a sales tax for a downtown arena. (You can read the official history of TulsaNow here.)

As this core group expanded to include friends of friends and acquaintances to become a broader network, it reached me, because of my involvement in the Midtown Coalition of Neighborhood Associations and in opposition to "It's Tulsa's Time." Wendy Thomas was brought in as a facilitator to lead brainstorming discussions and corral ideas into a mission and an organization.

In July 2002, TulsaNow members served as facilitators at Mayor LaFortune's vision summit and helped collate the thousands of ideas generated at that day-long event. Shortly thereafter, the city-led effort got merged into the County Commission's "Dialog" process, and, in the opinion of many TulsaNow members, the vision process was hijacked to get an arena tax passed by packing enough pork around it to get a majority of the vote. (TulsaNow did have a strong influence on one project in particular, with several people involved in the Downtowns and Neighborhoods task force.)

Many of us wanted a more strategic plan, a real vision, defined by Glenn Hiemstra as a "compelling description of your preferred future." We wanted to address urban design and land use -- to talk about the issues eventually addressed in the PLANiTULSA process.

Initially, the TulsaNow board voted not to make an endorsement and to express our frustration with the way Vision 2025 was put together, but our founders, who more than anything just wanted Tulsa to pass something somewhat MAPS-ish, pushed successfully to have TulsaNow endorse Vision 2025. (The debate over TulsaNow's Vision 2025 stance led to this email, calling on my fellow board members to be willing to say publicly what they'd been saying privately about the shortcomings with the process and projects.)

After Vision 2025, TulsaNow focused more on urban development issues, co-sponsoring public forums on a variety of issues, and maintaining an online discussion board. TulsaNow put together a grassroots-driven online shopping, dining, services, and entertainment guide for visitors to downtown when the organization paid to promote downtown wasn't doing anything. TulsaNow members were heavily involved in promoting and facilitating the PLANiTULSA development process and supporting the resulting plan through the adoption process. Most recently, TulsaNow spoke up in support of the Pearl District plan for form-based codes. Last fall, the group sponsored a debate on the form of city government with former Tulsa Mayor Rodger Randle and former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys.

While I often disagree with my fellow TulsaNow board members on political issues and on tax packages in particular, I'm very pleased that we're in agreement in opposition to Vision2 and all willing to say so publicly.

MORE: After the August board meeting, TulsaNow issued a brief statement expressing disappointment with the way Vision2 was being put together. That led to a KWGS Studio Tulsa interview with TulsaNow president Scott Grizzle on September 6, 2012, to elaborate on TulsaNow's concerns.

STILL MORE: My UTW column from 2007 explaining what TulsaNow is all about. I described TulsaNow as a kind of "See You at the Pole" -- a rallying point for Tulsans concerned about our city's future.

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1 Comments

Bob said:

Didn't Tulsa County Commissioner Democrat Karen Keith vote with the two RINO Republican County Commissioners to put the 6/10 cent Vision2 sales tax on the November 6 ballot?

Yep, thought so.

I guess she wants to let the voters decide....along with a contested race for 1st District Congressman, 6 statewide ballot issues, several state House and Senate races, and,

OH, OH, OH!!!

THE PRESIDENT.

Ms. Keith is such a supporter of representative democracy here in the Banana Republic of Tulsa. We're not real busy with a Presidential Election, or anything.

Well, SHE's obviously not busy here, since her candidate Barack Hussein Obama will get totally creamed in Oklahoma.

Maybe she and her husband, the bankruptcy attorney for Great Plains Airlines, are helping out in Missouri or Colorado or Ohio or Pennsylvania or Florida?

I'm likewise sure that the Metro Tulsa Chamber of Commerce would NEVER, ever use any of the $2 million in Tulsa taxpayer money that they receive every year to actually lobby for the Vision2 tax.

I'm sure that the $2 million in Tulsa taxpayer money is totally segregated in a Metro Chamberpot Lockbox.....kind of sort of maybe like the imaginary Social Security Lockbox?

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 29, 2012 11:07 PM.

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