Petition for jail tax points to opposition of commission majority

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Consider these options for putting a county-wide tax proposition on the ballot this fall:

1. Convince at least two of the three county commissioners to support the idea.

2. Collect 18,000 petition signatures in six weeks, early enough to make the November ballot.

If you could do either, which would you prefer? Which would be easier?

Would you pick option 2 if there were any possibility of accomplishing option 1?

Tulsa County Commissioners put five sets of propositions for county sales taxes on the ballot from 2000 to 2012. Why didn't Sheriff Stanley Glanz and Commissioner Karen Keith ask them to move forward with a sixth proposal to enact a new 1/6th cent sales tax to fund jail expansion and a new juvenile justice facility?

When Republican Party precinct leaders censured the two Republican county commissioners for putting the ill-considered Vision2 corporate welfare and pork barrel proposal on the ballot in 2012, the commissioners and their defenders argued that they had a duty to put the plan to the voters for the voters to decide. Opponents replied that commissioners had a duty to screen proposals and send forward only sound proposals that they deemed worthy of passage. I wrote at the time:

6. Putting a tax on the ballot is not a neutral act, as Commissioners Smaligo and Perry would like you to believe. I don't recall either of them ever putting forward a ballot measure to cut TCC's millage rate or end the Vision 2025 sales tax as soon as sufficient reserves exist to meet all outstanding obligations, although both ideas are worthy of discussion. They haven't given us a choice between spending three-quarters of a billion dollars on Vision2 vs. a short-term G. O. bond issue to, say, rebuild the levees. No, they picked one particular proposal -- a particularly bad proposal, vague, hastily assembled, and packed with corporate welfare and pork barrel, heavy laden with interest and fees -- to put before voters, and they blocked any alternative from coming before us. They've only given us a yes or no option. They have therefore endorsed this proposal by putting it on the ballot.

7. Furthermore -- and this is what makes their vote particularly deserving of censure -- this is now the second time that they have forced the grassroots fiscal conservative Republicans who got them elected to spend their personal time and treasure trying to counter a "vote yes" campaign with hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on ads and consultants.

The fact that the easy route to the ballot -- two commissioners out of three agreeing -- is not being pursued suggests strongly to me that only one of the three, Democrat Karen Keith, supports the idea, and Republicans John Smaligo and Mark Liotta (acting commissioner until Fred Perry's replacement is elected) do not. If you can't convince Smaligo, who voted for putting the 2007 river tax increase and the 2012 Vision2 tax on the ballot, how are you going to persuade the general public?

I'm surprised that the newspaper and TV coverage that I've seen have failed to make this connection for their readers and viewers.

The good news for taxpayers is that at least two county commissioners now believe that they have a duty to screen tax propositions before they go to the voters. District 3 voters should be asking Ron Peters and John Bomar, the candidates to replace Fred Perry, what their criteria are for allowing a tax proposition to go before the voters.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 3, 2013 10:48 PM.

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