Tulsa County: August 2013 Archives

Today, August 13, 2013, the polls will be open in southern Tulsa County, including the southern part of midtown Tulsa, for the special general election to replace retiring Tulsa County District 3 Commissioner Fred Perry. On the ballot are former State Rep. Ron Peters, who heads a public relations firm, and Tulsa County field construction supervisor John Bomar. The Tulsa World and the political arm of the Metropolitan Tulsa Regional Metro Chamber of Commerce have endorsed Peters. The winner will face a run for re-election next year when Perry's term expires.

In a May forum at TCC, both candidates indicated support for additional county sales tax propositions.

Rogers County voters will be asked to renew a one-cent county sales tax. 7/8ths of the cent will go to roads and bridges; 1/8th will go to help pay down a hefty legal judgment against the county. Here's how the Tulsa World's Rhett Morgan described the judgment:

Material Service Corp. filed the action against the county in 2000. The company wasn't seeking monetary damages but wanted a determination by the court that the county had improperly annexed the property leased by Material Service, preventing it from mining there, an attorney for the company said.

After a change-of-venue request was granted, the inverse condemnation case went to trial in Mayes County in 2009, with the jury awarding Material Service $12.5 million. Prejudgment and post-judgment interest, attorneys fees and costs since the 2009 jury verdict pushed the amount to more than $32 million.

Annexation? I am pretty sure that Oklahoma counties cannot unilaterally change their own boundaries by annexation. Rogers County lost territory to Tulsa County about 100 years ago, but its boundaries have been utterly stable for the last century.

What appears to have happened is that the City of Claremore-Rogers County Metropolitan Area Planning Commission added the land that Material Service Corp. had leased for limestone quarrying to the unincorporated land subject to county zoning, followed by county zoning to prohibit the quarrying that MSC wanted to do. This was done without proper notice, and MSC sued the county for the economic damages they suffered for misusing their zoning power. Looks like a case of trying to close the barn door just as the horses were escaping, if the horses had a high-powered trial lawyer to argue their case.

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.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa County category from August 2013.

Tulsa County: June 2013 is the previous archive.

Tulsa County: February 2014 is the next archive.

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