Vision2: Blake Ewing explains his opposition to Prop 1
Tulsa City Councilor Blake Ewing has a blog post out today explaining his opposition to Vision2 Tulsa County Proposition 1 in great detail, addressing the "deal closing fund" and the "airport part" in separate sections, and it's worth reading in full, but here are a few highlights (emphasis added):
As I've at times been the media's poster boy for the "anti-Vision" side, I figure it best to clarify my position in the few days remaining before the vote. I apologize for not doing this sooner. It's been difficult for me to discern the best approach on this and I fear that I may have done a disservice by not being more vocal through the process. If I would have consented, our local media would have had me on TV and radio every day and I just didn't want it to be about me. Also, many of the pro-Vision folks are taking it very personally and I've been troubled by the damage my opposition has caused to some those relationships.
So Councilor Ewing is experiencing first-hand what happens when you rock the boat in what I've called Tulsa's yacht-guest subculture.
Ewing makes some great points about what the push for a deal-closing fund says about Tulsa:
Trying to grow our city's employment base by paying companies to come here (or buying or building things for them), ensures that we'll attract the kind of companies who can be bought. I'm just not into building Tulsa's economic future on the backs of companies we lured here with money. Better to meet a nice girl and settle down than to... pay for one... right? I'd rather see us be the best city in the world to start a business, grow a company, raise a family, etc. There are things we could be doing to grow new industries, support small business development, inspire entrepreneurship, etc., and we won't have to worry about those folks packing up and leaving for the highest bidding community because they have roots here.
Last point on this one: Does it bother anyone else that our area leadership seems to be of the opinion that the only way to grow business in our area is to pay companies to come here? It's depressing to me... and it's not the kind of leadership Tulsa deserves. Expect better from the people you elect... and from the people tasked with growing Tulsa's business community.
Ewing also explains why this is on the ballot now, four years before the tax goes into effect and before we have any clarity on the future of bankrupt American Airlines. If you thought it was cynical political manipulation, you guessed right (emphasis added):
There is simply no good reason why we're voting on this now except that the people who put it together wanted to capitalize on the community concern for job loss and the timing of the presidential election, with the emphasis being on the latter. They stated repeatedly in the two meetings I was in that the consultant said the best chance of passing something like this is in a large election. The reason being, a well-funded campaign over a short period of time can beat unfunded and disorganized opposition if you can pound the lightly informed masses with media in the weeks leading up to the vote. We rushed this whole thing so it could be on the November ballot. Nobody at the airport was pressing for this timeframe. That came straight from The Chamber....
Spirit and Navistar didn't even ask for the upgrades. The Chamber asked them to make a list of their needs so that we weren't just putting American Airlines improvements on a list. While there are some needs at those two plants, they were not considered to be pressing. With all of the things in our community that we could be doing to promote and encourage job growth, investing in facilities for employers who weren't even asking for it to provide PR cover seems...
Ewing confirms what I suspected: Our local mis-leaders were following the advice of former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste, and what I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you didn't think you could do before." The Chamber has been wanting a big pile of money to play with for years, and they're using worry about jobs to get one.
Something Ewing doesn't mention: County commissioners have said they won't release the funds if they don't get iron-clad commitments from the beneficiary companies. If the authority that oversees the Prop 1 money can't come to terms with the intended recipients, if American, Spirit, and Navistar don't want the strings that come attached to the improvements and equipment, guess where the airport improvement money goes? Into the deal-closing fund. (Read the ballot resolution carefully. There's no minimum amount that they've promised to spend on the airport.)
All sales tax revenues in excess of the amounts necessary to complete the above listed projects (not to exceed $254,000,000.00 in total) plus any advance funding costs associated therewith shall be used to fund land, buildings, infrastructure and other capital improvements for the purpose of promoting economic development within Tulsa County, Oklahoma, including funding job creation programs....
Thank you, Councilor Ewing, for taking a bold stand in opposition to this mess.
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