Tulsa Vision 2025: August 2007 Archives

Over at the TulsaNow public forum, in a discussion about the river tax plan, Kirby Crowe, program manager for Vision 2025 had this to say about the availability of information about those projects (he uses the handle Vision 2025 on the forum):

Despite what some say, Tulsa County goes farther than any other governmental agency that I know of in providing transparency on sales tax projects. Vision 2025 has an independent Sales Tax Overview Committee who is provided timely detailed reports identifying all expenditures and the revenue received....

Projects for Vision are reported on the web and the detailed monthly reports are provided to all project sponsors and are on file at the Central Library and each year a newsletter style report is delivered by direct mail and multiple distribution points to the voters of Tulsa County.

I responded with a compliment and a question. I'm crossposting it here to see if someone here has the answer. So far no one has answered it over there:

The monthly Vision 2025 reports are quite thorough and fairly straightforward. Do you think they could be posted on the vision2025.info site?

Anyone looking for them at Central Library should be aware that there are now five binders containing the reports, but (as of a couple of weeks ago) only two are on the local government shelf. The most recent three are in the reference workroom, and you have to ask at the 4th Floor reference desk to see them.

One thing the reports don't contain is the financial plan to which John Piercey, financial contractor on Tulsa County bond issues, has referred in recent public statements.

This plan would include sales tax revenue projections and expected expenditures -- debt service, pay-as-you-go projects (e.g. Oklahoma Aquarium), projects that have yet to be funded (e.g. American Indian Cultural Center), and anticipated administrative fees (e.g., payments to PMg and attorneys).

In other words -- how much money you have on hand, what you expect to come in, and what you're already committed to spend it on, as well as when you expect the money to come in and when you expect to spend it.

Piercey's revenue projections from August 16, 2006, were included in a spreadsheet in the end-of-June Vision 2025 report that PMg prepared. Piercey's projections plus actual receipts through June 2006 come to a grand total of $750,274,016.33. What the Vision 2025 monthly report lacked, something Piercey's plan apparently has, are the details of bond repayment schedules and other anticipated expenses.

I asked Kirby Crowe by phone if he had a copy of this plan. I'm not sure if I made my meaning clear, but I came away from the conversation with the impression that he did not have a copy of Piercey's financial plan.

I called Jim Smith, the County's fiscal officer, and asked if he had a copy of the financial plan. I thought he might, since his name is on the monthly memo in the Vision 2025 report listing tax receipts, the monthly wire transfer from the sales tax fund to the trustee, and the interest earnings on the sales tax trust account.

Smith said he didn't have the financial plan, but suggested I call John Piercey. Mr. Smith could tell me what the payment to the trustee would be for the next six months, at which point it would be recalculated, but couldn't tell me anything more about future expenses.

I called Capital West, and they gave me John Piercey's number. I called John, and he was very gracious. He said he'd e-mail it to me that evening or the following morning. He said something about recalculating based on more recent tax receipts. I'd really be happy seeing the most recent version, whatever he's been using as the basis for his statements about Vision 2025 surpluses.

That was a week ago Monday, the 20th. I gave him a reminder call on the 28th -- got his voicemail and left a message. Haven't heard back yet. I'm sure he's quite busy.

Can anyone suggest somewhere else I could find this information?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Mike at Okiedoke has been closely following the latest news of the possible relocation of the Seattle SuperSonics pro basketball franchise to Oklahoma City. Here are a few thoughts on what he's gleaned.

So Oklahoma City voted for the MAPS sales tax in 1993. Construction on the Ford Center began in 1999. The Ford Center opened in June 2002. When New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, Oklahoma City cleared the calendar to allow the New Orleans Hornets to play their 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons at the Ford Center.

A group of investors from Oklahoma City bought the Seattle SuperSonics and plan to move the team to Oklahoma City. Because one of the owners didn't keep quiet about that intention, he's been fined $250,000 by the NBA. Seattle has been given an ultimatum -- give us a bigger, better place to play or we're gone.

But surely Oklahoma City, with its five-year-old arena which spent two seasons as host to an NBA team, won't need to build a new facility to be the worthy home of the NBA Oklahoma SuperSonic Bacon Cheeseburger Toasters, right? Right?

Wrong. Hypothetically speaking.

When asked by a SuperSonics employee why the ownership team would consider forsaking the bigger and more prosperous Seattle market for Oklahoma City, chairman Clay Bennett listed the incentives Oklahoma City had offered to the SuperSonics:

  • Any legal fees involving the team’s fight to break the KeyArena lease.
  • Whatever the settlement is to the Seattle Center to buy out the lease.
  • All relocation fees the NBA would force the team to pay other owners.
  • Costs of physically moving the team’s staff and offices.
  • Costs of upgrading the city’s current arena, the Ford Center, to make it NBA-ready.
  • Costs of building a new arena, and when it’s finished, keeping the old facility running.

The Ford Center's not even good enough as a temporary home without modifications, and evidently no upgrades will suffice to qualify it as a permanent home.

Bennett covered his tracks with the NBA by saying he was answering the question hypothetically.

So how is Oklahoma City going to pay for all this? With the extra revenue generated by all the economic growth that occurred because of the MAPS projects, they must have money to keep their streets in excellent repair and plenty left over for incentives to the SuperSonics, right?



This December Oklahoma City is going to be asking its voters to approve a $760 million bond issue for street repairs and basic capital infrastructure, nearly twice the rumored amount of a 2008 Tulsa street bond issue. Mayor Mick Cornett is even considering levying an impact fee to cover the additional cost to the city of serving new development. (That's not a bad idea, actually.)

At least Oklahoma City voters will be able to vote on necessities prior to having to make a choice about a tax for a new sports arena to replace its five-year old facility.

There's been an interesting discussion over at the TulsaNow forum, looking ahead to the river tax vote in October, and looking back to the Vision 2025 tax vote back in 2003. There were persistent rumors that certain major companies blasted e-mails to their employees, urging them to vote yes, and that one company in particular, the Bank of Oklahoma, pressured employees to allow the vote yes campaign to put signs in their yards. BOk was one of the largest donors to the vote yes campaign, and a subsidiary of BOk Financial Corp., Leo Oppenheim, got half of the Vision 2025 revenue bond business.

In the course of the discussion, a user identifying himself with the handle "bokworker" was denying that there had been any sort of pressure on BOk employees to support Vision 2025, but he finally acknowledged this much (emphasis added; "Oil Capital" and "FB" are other participants in the discussion):

Oil Capital, as I recall the "incident" in question, there was an article posted on the banks' internal intranet informing employess about the Vision 2025 initiative and that the bank, as an entity, supported the initiative. The article stated that those employees that also supported the intitiative could ( note, it said COULD not WOULD) have a sign placed in their front yard to indicate their support. Those that did not want a sign or were not in support of the issue could "opt-out" by clicking the attached link and it was done. There was no effort in opting out besides a finger click. I will agree that I am not good at reading the minds of thousands of BOk employees any more than FB is. I can relate however that the so called "implicite coersion" was not felt by me or any of my co-workers. Is it possible that one or more employees felt uncomfortable in opting out? I suppose, but I did not.

Could the bank have worded the intranet article in a manner that you had to "opt-in" to get a sign put in your yard? I suppose but since I didn't feel like the bank was doing something that put my future with the organization at risk by "opting-out" I didn't give it a second thought. My angst with FB was that the banks actions were some sort of a conspiracy on the part of management to force the actions of its' employees to follow the company line. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It's 2003, and Tulsa has lost over 25,000 high tech jobs in the last two years. You go to work, sit down at your desk, log into the network, and you see an article telling you the company supports the Vision 2025 tax increase, and if you don't support it or don't want a "vote yes" sign in your yard, you can click a link and opt out. Would you click that link, knowing that there will be a record made of your decision?

Or would you suddenly remember your friend at that oil company who opposed the Tulsa Project and was fired after the election? Would you decide that it's not worth it to rock the boat?

There may be an honorable situation for forcing employees or subscribers or customers to "opt out" instead of allowing them to "opt in" but I can't think of one. At the very least Mr. Opt Out is hoping you'll forget to uncheck the box. Or maybe he'll set it up so that opting out requires checking a box, with the hope that you won't read closely enough or will just overlook it.

What BOk did, if this employee's story is accurate, is far worse. If you disagreed with your company's position on the tax, you had to conspicuously identify yourself as an opponent. Making the signs opt-in would have allowed opponents of the tax to blend in with those who just didn't get around to requesting a sign.

While I haven't heard this kind of story yet in this campaign, I am already hearing about pressure being applied by supporters of the new tax to shut down opposition. I've already heard of a neighborhood leader is being pressured not to allow an opponent of the tax to share the stage with a representative from the county at their neighborhood meeting. This is a sign of insecurity on the part of the proponents. If they believe their spin won't stand up to cross-examination, they'll refuse to debate someone who is able to use facts and reason to rebut their claims.

You tax supporters: If this is such a good deal, let it stand on its own merits. You shouldn't need to use threats, either explicit or implicit, to win support.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Vision 2025 category from August 2007.

Tulsa Vision 2025: July 2007 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Vision 2025: September 2007 is the next archive.

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