Tulsa City Hall: March 2006 Archives



Yes, I know I was slammed by the Whirled in yesterday's lead editorial. I will respond, but not tonight, as I am already up too late and have an early morning and a long day ahead of me.

Something else that deserves your attention -- the breakdown of contributions to city candidates. Note the PACs at the end of that story, who contributed to the PACs, and to whom the PACs contributed. I'm happy to see that most of the candidates they backed lost their primaries, but they are putting a lot of money behind Dennis Troyer, trying to unseat Jim Mautino.

Meanwhile, my son played his first little league game of the year tonight. He scored the winning run!

District 6 City Councilor Jim Mautino will have a town hall meeting tomorrow evening, Wednesday, March 22, at 6:30 p.m., at Martin East Regional Library, 26th & Garnett.

Here's the agenda, according to Mautino's website:

  • So that you may have the opportunity to make an informed decision about who you want to be your voice at City Hall
  • Short informational powerpoint presentation on the 3rd penny sales tax extension
  • What street, water, and sewer projects are in the works and what is proposed
  • What can be done for all of us to feel safer and what can be done to improve our streets
  • What are our options regarding Eastland Mall
  • "From the Floor" Question and Answer Session covering all your areas of concern -- Questions will NOT be prescreened

Jim is in a tough race, and he could use your help to get the word out about his accomplishments as a City Councilor. Call 437-2642 to volunteer. If you have friends and family in District 6, encourage them to support Jim and to attend tomorrow night's Town Hall. (Click here to see a map of the district.)

UPDATE: Volunteers will be walking neighborhoods on Saturday to hand out campaign material for Jim Mautino. To help out, meet Saturday at 10:00 a.m. at Jim's house, 14628 E. 12th St.

Thursday night the Tulsa City Council gave the green light to the Tax Increment Finance district for the Tulsa Hills retail development between 71st and 81st on the east side of US 75. Steve Roemerman and I were both there, and both of us spoke in support. Steve has a good summary of the debate and discussion.

The final vote was 8-to-Martinson. If I were Jon Kirby's campaign manager, I'd record the replay, grab some audio or quotes and use it in the final weeks of the campaign. Martinson's performance undermines any claim Martinson might make to being reasonable, pro-Tulsa-business, and pro-Tulsa-development.

Martinson claimed he just had questions that needed answers, but he undermined his credibility by asking repeatedly if there weren't better ways to spend the $16.5 million in taxpayer money involved in this project. But those tax dollars won't be generated if the development doesn't go forward. I'm sure he understood that, so why act like he didn't?

At one point, the taxpayer who would be generating those revenues was recognized -- the developer, John Collett. As the sole owner within the boundaries of the TIF, part of his property taxes (the increment over the current taxes on the land) will go to repay the bonds which will finance the roads and water lines and sewer lines needed by the development. Some of the sales taxes generated by the center will as well, but only up to a certain amount each year, and only until the bonds are repaid. No taxing entity loses any money that they are currently receiving, and taxes aren't raised on anyone else to pay for it.

Martinson, Neal, Baker, and Sullivan all wanted to move the issue back to committee, but Medlock held firm, saying that everyone was here who might be needed to answer Martinson's doubts, and that he was willing to spend the time necessary. Christiansen wasn't willing to wait, as his wife (a school teacher) was off for spring break next week, and they planned to be out of town. Martinson seemed angry at Christiansen, saying that he thought Christiansen had an open mind but it was apparent that he was all for it. Martinson said something about Christiansen giving him some leads to pursue -- presumably leads that would help derail this project.

One aspect of the proceedings confirmed the appropriateness of the label "Cockroach Caucus": Christiansen, Martinson, Neal, and Sullivan all said that they had heard from experts and people more knowledgeable than they who said that this was a bad deal, but none of those knowledgeable experts were named, and none of them showed up to argue for killing the deal. Rather than have the debate in the light of public scrutiny, these shadowy opponents remained hidden. And when it was apparent that they wouldn't be able to move the issue back to committee, the opposition from these councilors disappeared.

I think the plan was to push it back to committee and to continue to delay and delay until options on key pieces of land were set to expire, making it impossible for the project to proceed. I suspect that other investors want to see a big-box center closer to 121st Street and US 75, between Jenks and Glenpool. If Tulsa Hills went forward, a center five miles south wouldn't be able to attract that same collection of tenants.

A commenter on my previous entry expressed surprise and amusement about my concern for the success a big-box development. Would I rather this be a mixed-use, New Urbanist village? Of course. I don't like the fact that between 71st and 81st there is no access from the East or the West to this development -- you're going to see traffic nightmares because of this. I'm hoping they'll respect the topography and the trees, but I don't expect that they will.

But I'm realistic enough to know that this kind of development is going to go in somewhere in southwest Tulsa County. The demographics are ripe for it, and if it isn't built by these developers in the city limits of Tulsa, it'll be built by someone else outside the City of Tulsa, and some other city will reap the tax windfall. That's money to pay for police, streets, and sewers. That money will help finance improvements to downtown and inner city neighborhoods, too.

How can I support big-box retail here, but not on Cherry Street or Brookside? It's a matter of scale and compatibility. This development is going to be next to a limited-access highway, and is designed to attract customers from a wide radius, particularly to the south and west where there are no comparable facilities. And there isn't an existing neighborhood that it has to be compatible with.

A big-box store would damage the pedestrian-oriented qualities of neighborhoods like Cherry Street and Brookside unless it met certain design guidelines to make it pedestrian-oriented -- e.g, a two-story Lowe's, with parking in the basement. Even then, the scale of such a store would overwhelm these neighborhoods of small-scale retail right next to homes. The Brookside Plan is a good first step in defining what would be compatible new development in that neighborhood, but it needs teeth -- design guidelines for selected areas need to be part of our land-use code.

In Miami's Kendall area, they've built a big-box center where it's all stacked vertically and connected to a transit station. It can be done, but it won't be done unless the City of Tulsa requires it.

Congratulations to the Council, and particularly to Chris Medlock, who has been working with the developer and the Urban Development Department for two years to bring this to fruition. He deserves some credit, too, for building support for this from his fellow councilors and for rallying community representatives to show up and support this.

Speaking in support of this plan were Darla Hall, the former District 2 councilor whom Medlock twice defeated, and Randi Miller, the County Commissioner and former District 2 councilor who probably kept Medlock from winning the GOP nomination for mayor. Rick Westcott was there, too, so you had everyone who ever represented the affected council district there speaking in support. Despite past disagreements and rivalries, they all came to support this project for the benefit of west Tulsa.

Six more FOR

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My column this week is about the six Tulsa city charter amendments on the April 4 ballot, and why you should vote FOR all six.

I wrote a column about these amendments, and those that didn't make the cut, back in November, right after the amendments had been approved for the ballot. It's instructive to see which councilors supported and which opposed each one.

At TulsaNow's forum, there's a lively discussion about the need for Proposition 1, which would allow the Council to hire legal help independent of the City Attorney's office. Michelle Cantrell (posting as "pmcalk") makes some excellent points.

Also in this week's issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly:

Jarrod Gollihare has the first in a series of stories about charismatic universalist preacher Carlton Pearson.

UTW's new city reporter, Ginger Shepherd, has a story about the proposed sprinkler ordinance for residential high-rises and another story about a dispute between Community Care College and students over the school's veterinary program.

The cover features the poker craze, and Barry Friedman reports from an illegal private game and from the casinos.

Wonder whatever happened to KTUL sports director Mike Ziegenhorn? So did David Austin, who spoke to Zig and his old boss at KTUL.

Tomorrow night the Tulsa City Council will vote on whether to approve a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district for Tulsa Hills, a major shopping destination planned for the east side of US 75 between 71st Street and 81st Street. The center would attract shoppers from west Tulsa, Jenks, Glenpool, Sapulpa, and other cities further to the south and west. A study of retail opportunities within the City of Tulsa identified this site and one near I-44 and 129th East Avenue as the optimum locations for a new major retail development.

Do I need to spell it out again? Retail generates sales tax, and sales tax pays for police, fire protection, street repair, and every other city service. With all the residential development, there's going to be a major retail development west of the river, and if it isn't in the City of Tulsa, we lose.

The idea behind a TIF is that you take an area not producing much in the way of taxes and finance infrastructure improvements to the area via the increase in taxes resulting from new development. Tulsa has a number of TIFs in and near downtown; the one centered on Home Depot has been the most successful.

"Increment" is the key word. The various taxing authorities are still getting the same amount of money they had been getting, but the incremental dollars are used for improvements within the district. The hope is that improvements within the district will stimulate development outside the district that will also generate more tax revenues.

It takes a long time to put together a TIF. You have to get the support of every public entity with a claim on those property taxes. In this location that means the City of Tulsa, the Jenks School District, Tulsa County, the Tulsa City-County Library, the Tulsa City-County Health Department, the Tulsa Technology Center (Vo-Tech), Tulsa Community College, and I think there's one more, but I can't think of it at the moment.

The final hurdle requires the affirmative vote of seven councilors. (Hey, wait a minute -- I thought we couldn't have supermajorities under our Charter.) That may be a problem. Bill Martinson, Councilor for District 5, has been making noises like he may vote against it. In a previous council meeting, Bill Christiansen raised concerns about this new shopping center stealing customers from Woodland Hills Mall.

But the more accurate comparison is to 71st between Garnett and Mingo, a collection of big box stores and smaller retail. East and southeast Tulsa, Broken Arrow, and Bixby residents will still shop along that corridor, because it will still be more convenient than going another seven miles further west.

The real target for this shopping center are the residents of new upscale housing in Jenks, Glenpool, and unincorporated parts of northeastern Creek County. If Tulsa Hills isn't built, these shoppers will still be stolen from 71st and 169, but instead of those retail dollars staying in Tulsa, the new shopping center will be in Glenpool, and that's where the tax revenue will go.

There's another problem if this TIF is turned down. This has been a lengthy process, and if it ends before being consummated, Tulsa will have trouble attracting other developers to anchor other TIF districts.

I encourage you to show your support at tomorrow (Thursday) night's City Council meeting. Help Councilors Martinson and Christiansen understand how important this is to Tulsa.

Third-penny proposal

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Here is a link to a 19-page PDF file with the list of "third-penny" projects approved by the City Council on Thursday for a May 9th election.

$71 million of the package consists of incomplete projects from the 2001 third-penny. Of the $385 million in new projects, here are some interesting figures that give you a sense of the priorities of the outgoing City Council:

$41 million for culture and recreation, including new and expanded parks facilities that will require more money from the first two pennies for operation. That amount also includes $2 million for convention center renovations, something we were told that the $183 million in Vision 2025 funds for the arena and convention center was going to pay for. That $2 million replaces money shifted to the arena to pay for the "iconic" glass wall.

$32 million for police equipment and facilities -- a helicopter, police cars, and a new police lab and property room.

$24,150,000 for downtown projects, spread out among various categories. That doesn't count five downtown street projects out of 22 in the "arterial streets -- major rehabilitation" category. The capital project inventory in the 2005-6 budget (p. 34, item 108) lists downtown street and sidewalk improvements at $9.2 million, so let's use that number in the absence of a project-by-project breakdown in the third-penny plan. That makes $33,350,000 for downtown compared to $32,000,000 for the police department.

I'm taking a quick break from work to post this breaking news.

Over the transom comes some very good news for Tulsa and the Tulsa Metro Chamber, news of the first victim of Tuesday's City Council results:

Dear Steve and members of the Board:

Please accept this letter as notice of my resignation effective no later than January 16, 2007. I will plan to leave my position at a mutually agreed upon time that works for me and my family, as well as you and the Chamber and our contractual obligations to each other.

I submit this resignation with mixed emotions. The Tulsa Metro Chamber and Tulsa have been my passions for the past eight years. All of the accomplishments we have achieved together are too numerous to mention in this letter. Highlights to me are: a streamlined organization that is focused on economic development and the issues that impact economic development; a large, stable, and active membership that has been engaged through the creation of new programs that benefit business, our organizational relationships, and our community; the Chamber is supported by our members at the highest level in its 100 year history with a budget that has grown from approximately $5 million to $8 million during the past few years; we are on point on all of the major issues impacting Tulsa’s business community and we pass the initiatives we support, the most significant being Vision 2025, which is focused on economic development and higher education; and, today the public policy issues we are tackling, and the strategic directions of our new Tulsa’s Future program and our Convention and Visitors Bureau are focused, meaningful and tight.

I am leaving behind a contemporary organization that is truly poised to provide direction and leadership in a community that has broken out of a long period of complacency about itself. Today Tulsans are restless and looking to take the leap forward, a sleeping giant has been awakened. The Chamber has played a big role in waking the giant. We recently were nationally recognized as America’s Best Metro Chamber. This Chamber can make a big difference in leading forward. We have great community leaders around our various tables, we have an experienced and talented executive team and staff, and we have the desire to make good things happen.

On a personal note, I am a guy that needs to make a difference. I will look for a new challenge either here or someplace else where I can make that happen. Meanwhile, when we moved here eight years ago we sold the sailboat and boxed up the skis. The skis haven’t been out since. It is too late in the season for the skis, but maybe we will see you on the lake.

Very truly yours,

Jay M. Clemens

Commentary later.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa City Hall category from March 2006.

Tulsa City Hall: February 2006 is the previous archive.

Tulsa City Hall: April 2006 is the next archive.

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