Tulsa Vision 2025: December 2003 Archives

Santa Dick?


At a City Council meeting I attended a week and a half ago, there was a presentation to honor public officials and others connected with a charitable program called "Angel Bear". Clint Walden, who runs the program, gave one of the awards to County Commissioner Bob Dick, referring to the commissioner as a kind of Santa Claus to all of Tulsa County because of Vision 2025.

Hmm. Imagine if Santa Claus operated like the Commissioner. A child climbs up on Santa's lap:

"Ho! Ho! Ho! What do you want for Christmas, little girl?"

"I want a dolly, and a Wiggles CD, and a wagon, and candy."

"Ho! Ho! I'll be happy to bring you a big-screen TV and a new car stereo! Maybe I'll give you a dolly, too! (But no CD, wagon, or candy -- I know better than you do what you need.) You just need to bring me part of your allowance every week for the next thirteen years. I'll borrow money against your allowance and pay interest to my dear friends. I'll buy the home entertainment center from some other dear friends -- it may cost more than other places, but what's a few more dollars to someone like yourself. What do you mean you don't want a home entertainment center, you little anklebiter? It will grow our economy, put cranes in the air, and It's For The Children."

Funny how Republicans used to complain that Democrats were establishing their "compassion" credentials by spending other people's money. Now it seems that at least some Republicans are gaining a reputation for generosity for being generous with our tax dollars.

Boeing made it official yesterday -- the final assembly facility for the 7E7 will be in Everett, Washington, where Boeing can take advantage of existing facilities and an existing workforce to build the new aircraft.

We never really had a shot, except in the minds of local boosters. No analysts from outside Tulsa listed us among the finalists, although Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce Kathy Taylor claims that we were one of three finalists.

Meanwhile, public officials here are in full spin mode, claiming that Tulsa's Vision 2025 vote is why Boeing plans to locate 500 jobs for a 7E7 leading-edge assembly plant. But as we heard when the 500 jobs were announced, Boeing is bringing those jobs because of our workforce, and the fact that Boeing's Tulsa facilities are already engaged in similar work on other Boeing aircraft, not because of any Vision 2025 money. Our public officials repeatedly promised that the tax would only go into effect if Boeing brought the final assembly plant here, so Boeing shouldn't get any Tulsa County funds.

Shouldn't but might, thanks to loopholes in the ballot title -- Boeing's facility doesn't have to be the final assembly plant; no minimum number of employees added. County Commissioners could use the leading edge assembly plant to trigger the 0.4% sales tax, and give themselves a revenue stream for all sorts of projects, without further voter approval. If the Commissioners intend to be true to their word -- no tax without a final assembly plant -- they will take the next opportunity to repeal the Boeing sales tax so that it can never be triggered.

State officials are still refusing to tell us what incentives they offered Boeing in our name and with our tax dollars. Even the total value of the package has been kept secret.

Who will design the arena?


A couple of weeks ago, Jack Blair posted a very helpful guide to the firms competing for the job of designing and engineering the new downtown sports arena, complete with photos of work done by these firms and his own thoughts on who would produce the kind of arena that will be an asset to downtown, not an eyesore. He obviously put a lot of effort into collecting the information -- go check it out.

And elsewhere, Jack suggests we look to our past -- the old Coliseum -- for inspiration.

I didn't want the darn thing, but at least we can build something nice.

Boeing to build 7E7 in Everett


The Seattle Times is reporting that Boeing will build the 7E7 in Everett, Washington, picking that city over three finalists, all southern cities near the ocean:

The Boeing insider, who has provided accurate information about key 7E7 decisions in recent months, said Everett was chosen over three other finalists, all in the Southeast: Kinston, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; and Mobile, Ala. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The 7E7 team's analysis showed that the cost of operating in Everett, though higher than in the other cities, was competitive because of the $3 billion 7E7 tax incentive passed by Gov. Gary Locke and the state Legislature in June.

With that incentive package, the difference in cost between Everett and Kinston, the lowest-cost city, narrowed to about $300 million over 20 years, a number dwarfed by the estimated $7 billion to $10 billion cost of developing a new airplane.

The source goes on to cite non-economic reasons for the selection. Selecting a non-union site would hurt Boeing in negotiations with unions at its other facilities. And leaving Washington would alienate Boeing's allies in Washington's congressional delegation, who are especially important now because of the recent allegations of unethical behavior by Boeing officials, which are jeopardizing a plan to have Boeing build new tankers for the US Air Force.

Here's a link to the Seattle Times archive of stories about Boeing.

We should know for sure on December 15, when the Boeing board meets to discuss whether to move forward with the 7E7 and where the final assembly plant will be built.

If Tulsa doesn't get it, Tulsa County taxpayers should demand that the County Commissioners to act swiftly to repeal the tax authorized by Proposition No. 1 on the Vision 2025 ballot, so that the 0.4% cannot be activated under any circumstances, no matter how contrived.

The contract to build the most expensive item on the Vision 2025 ballot -- the new downtown sports arena and convention center expansion -- will go to a team of two local construction companies (jump page here) who were represented on the Dialog / Vision leadership team and were among the most generous contributors to the vote yes campaign. Manhattan Construction contributed $25,000 to the campaign, and Manhattan's chairman, Francis Rooney, was on the leadership team. Flintco contributed $21,500 to the campaign, and Flintco's president, Tom Maxwell, was on the leadership team.

Manhattan and Flintco, teamed up as "Tulsa Vision Builders", were selected over Tetra Tech, which has a Tulsa office, and Turner Construction, of Arlington, Virginia. Some will argue that this represents a promise kept -- to use local suppliers to the greatest extent possible. It should be remembered, however, that several other local companies were filtered out in the first round. No public reason was given for eliminating these other Tulsa companies -- there was some mention of a point system -- although it certainly set things up nicely that among local companies only this team of politically-connected firms made it through to the final round.

There is no question that Manhattan and Flintco have been involved in some significant arena and stadium projects over the years, and worked together to complete the dome on the State Capitol. There is no question that they have the expertise to carry out the project. The question is whether the best and most cost-effective team was selected, or whether favoritism played a role.

It all seems too cozy. These two major construction companies get a seat at the table, as part of the leadership team, with a voice and a vote as a "vision" is defined for the Tulsa metro area -- an opportunity denied to representatives of small businesses, neighborhoods, churches, colleges, and schools. Perhaps not coincidentally, the leadership team concludes that major construction projects are what Tulsa most needs for improving its quality of life. And then the companies that are most generous in helping persuade the public to part with their tax money are rewarded with the biggest piece of the pie. They will recoup their campaign contribution many times over.

The next big decision is to choose an architecture and engineering team. Looking again at the list of contributors, the biggest donor who has yet to receive a return on investment is architect Gary Sparks, whose firm gave $10,000 to the vote yes campaign. Sparks does have experience in the field -- he designed the expansion of Gallagher-Iba, coming up with a very creative solution which left the heart of the legendary fieldhouse intact while expanding up and out to double the number of seats, from 6,300 to about 13,000. (Perhaps that could be done here -- save the cost of acquiring additional land.)

I'm betting that Sparks will get the nod.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Vision 2025 category from December 2003.

Tulsa Vision 2025: November 2003 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Vision 2025: February 2004 is the next archive.

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