Disappointing Tulsa

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Last week, the voters of Tulsa County, Oklahoma had a chance to pass a slight increase in sales tax in order to greatly enhance its economic development opportunities.  Even though I don't live in Tulsa or even Tulsa County, I was hoping this item would pass.  Tulsa needs things like this to grow, and it really hasn't experienced the same level of development as many other cities its size.  While Tulsa does grow, I have been places where the rate of growth is just tremendous.  New construction everywhere, you can't move for tripping over a construction site.  Not so in Tulsa.

The vote was an issue about developing the Arkansas River which flows through the middle of Tulsa.  This river is large, but during the summer months, it looks like a giant sand barge with water tricking through it.  Plans were to make the river full of water year around with a series of low water dams built to control the flow.  There were also plans to develop housing and retail areas along the river so that people would actually want to live in a part of Tulsa that really hasn't had too much going for it in a long long time.

A forward-thinking project like this could have been historic for Tulsa.  It would have shown everyone that Tulsa was serious about economic development and wants to make Tulsa a nicer place for all to live.  Unfortunately, many people aren't forward-thinkers.  A "Vote No" campaign was started to oppose this tax.  The proposed tax was a less than 1 cent increase in the sales tax, and even if passed, Tulsa would still have the lowest sales tax in Northeast Oklahoma. 

These nay-sayers complained that other things needed fixed.  Like roads, etc etc.  I agree.  But this sales tax would not have changed anything.  No funds would have been taken from road budgets to pay for this project.  And if Tulsa grows, there would be more money spent in the city, and this would actually INCREASE the amount of funds available for roads.  But, the feeling I get is that some areas of Tulsa didn't want money spent on developing other parts of their city.  There is not community effort in their thinking.  Just "spend the money in our part of town or we won't support anything you do".  Shameful!

Though I don't live in Tulsa (I did from 1972-1977 and again from 1984-1990) my town and all the surrounding towns would benefit indirectly from this proposal.  And the funny thing about sales tax is that you end up taxing a lot of people who do not directly live in your town.  I go to Tulsa a lot to buy stuff... things that I cannot buy in Pryor.  I pay the Tulsa sales tax, and would have gladly paid the extra tiny bit if I thought the area as a whole would benefit.  Me, and thousands of others travel to Tulsa to shop.  Imagine how much money that would have raised from those not even living in Tulsa. 

If Tulsa grows and prospers, there will be more to do and experience in Tulsa.  Live theater, concerts, and other attractions would be drawn to a prospering Tulsa, and a prospering Tulsa could better support these types of events.  For less than a cent on every dollar, this could have been a great thing.  I am disappointed that the voters in Tulsa didn't agree.

PS. It was close, about 48% yes to 52% no

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