Tulsa County: November 2005 Archives

"4 to Tweak" debate


A few days ago I wrote that the people pushing for the new $62 million Tulsa County sales tax didn't seem to want to participate in today's debate at the Tulsa County Republican Men's Club (TCRMC). Late in the day Thursday, Commissioner Randi Miller decided she would make herself available to debate Councilor Chris Medlock after all.

A large crowd filled The Fountains Restaurant's largest dining area today. As people signed in and paid for lunch, each paid-up member of the TCRMC ($20 / year) was given a copy of the official sample ballot for a straw poll to be taken at the end of the debate.

I'm not going to try right now to provide a detailed account of the debate. Neither debater overwhelmed the crowd. Miller relied on a PowerPoint presentation during her 10 minutes. Medlock had written a speech and pretty much put on his reading glasses and read it; he was much more effective during the rebuttal and Q&A when he was speaking extemporaneously.

During Q&A I asked Commissioner Miller why the County couldn't use its use tax to finance the most critical need (juvenile justice center and courthouse improvements). It would supply about $4 million a year under the lower rate that would be in effect if the new "4 to Fix" tax fails. The use tax paid for renovation of the Pavilion and other fairgrounds improvements.

Miller asked me where my use tax numbers came from. They are from the Oklahoma Tax Commission's monthly sales tax reports, which you can find on their website. I took the 18 months from the March 2004 through August 2005 reports. (Because of reporting deadlines, the March 2004 report was the first report with the higher county tax rate after the Vision 2025 tax went into effect.) In those 18 months, Tulsa County collected $7.3 million in use taxes. Adjusting that number for the use tax rate without the 1/6th cent "4 to Fix" tax (use tax rate can only be as high as the sales tax rate), and for a year rather than 18 months, it comes to $4,075,528.30. The County's Proposition 1 is for 12% of the projected $62 million total -- that's $7.4 million, which the use tax could cover in a little under two years. Why not reprioritize that money, spend it on the courts and justice system instead of on improving the fairgrounds, which is already in wonderful shape?

58 TCRMC members voted in the straw poll. The "no" side prevailed on all four propositions -- ranging from a 58-42 margin for Proposition 2 (parks) to a 51-49 margin for Proposition 4 (roads). (You'll find the ballot resolutions for the four propositions here.)

I was surprised not to see any "vote yes" brochures. Someone had printed up copies of my Urban Tulsa Weekly column on the topic, and someone else made some "vote no" yard signs.

Quick Tulsa links

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Steve Roemerman was at Tuesday night's meeting about the IVI toll bridge -- has a good summary of the controversy here.

Meeciteewurkor is having another contest -- come up with the funniest (but still decent) answer for what the P. J. stands for in Tulsa Whirled reporter P. J. Lassek's name. For extra credit, write a typically slanted Whirled City Hall news article, then write the Ken Neal editorial founded on that article.

Debate dodging

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At about 3:21 PM, I received an email from Club for Growth, the pro-fiscal responsibility pressure group:

[Club for Growth President] Pat [Toomey] will be on the show, NewsHour With Jim Lehrer, tonight on PBS. We hope you can tune in because he was originally scheduled to debate Sarah Chamberlain Resnick, the head of the Republican Main Street Partnership.

This is the same RINO organization whose members are blocking budget cuts from passing the House and the same group that once received a big check from George Soros. Unfortunately, Ms. Resnick backed out of the debate. We guess it's tough to defend RINOs.

This came about an hour later:

Well, it looks like Pat won't be on Jim Lehrer's TV show tonight after all.

The TV producers for the show simply couldn't find a RINO who was willing to debate Pat so they decided to scrub the segment all together.

Shame on the Republican Main Street Partnership for not being willing to defend their pro-pork position in what would have probably been a friendly venue. But more shame on the producers of News Hour for caving into their manipulations. Cowards who are afraid to defend their policies count on this kind of reaction by debate organizers. Can't have a fair debate without both sides, so the side that is afraid to debate finds one excuse after another to avoid sending someone, and the organizer feels compelled to cancel the debate to avoid a one-sided presentation.

For an example of the right way to respond, look at the way KRMG handled a similar situation with the 2000 "It's Tulsa's Time" arena sales tax vote. The proponents refused to make someone available for a debate on KRMG, but KRMG determined to go ahead with the scheduled debate with or without a "vote yes" representative. In the end the "vote yes" side sent someone.

Don Burdick is doing the right thing, too, regarding this Friday's debate on the December 13th vote on a new five-year round of sales tax -- $62 million more for Tulsa County Commissioners to spend.

Don is president of the Tulsa County Republican Men's Club. Over a month ago, he scheduled this debate for their November luncheon, and he asked me to speak on behalf of the opposition. He asked County Commissioner Bob Dick to speak for the proponents, but Dick refused when he learned it would be a debate. Dick also it was sub dignitate sua for him to debate a non-elected official. So City Councilor Chris Medlock was brought in for the opposition.

Things get a bit confused, but my understanding is that at this point Dick dropped out and the "vote yes" side substituted County Commissioner Randi Miller. Then they told Don that Medlock shouldn't debate for the "vote no" side since he's running for Mayor. The vote yes consultant helpfully suggested someone else to argue for the opposition. Their ideal choice for someone to face in a debate was unavailable.

Don Burdick declined to let the proponents dictate who they'd be debating against. As things now stand, Commissioner Miller revealed last Thursday that she is unable to attend, and the consultant says no one else can come. Burdick is going ahead with the program, even if only opponents make themselves available to speak. And he's going ahead with a straw poll on the county sales tax, open to club members only, with the results to be made public.

Good for Don. But what does it say about our County Commissioners that they are unwilling to make the case for the $62 million they want from us?

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa County category from November 2005.

Tulsa County: October 2005 is the previous archive.

Tulsa County: December 2005 is the next archive.

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