About 320 responses from citizens poured in during the first three weeks Tulsa city leaders asked for public input on Vision2 projects.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett on Aug. 15 first announced a series of public forums and invited people to share their thoughts on Vision2 via an online form on the city's website.
The Vision2 proposal -- on the Nov. 6 ballot -- asks Tulsa County voters to extend a sales tax hike approved in 2003. Part of the money would be dedicated to airport infrastructure improvements and a fund that could be used to lure businesses to Tulsa County.
But in a separate proposition before voters, backers of the plan have estimated that approximately $360 million could be collected from sales tax and used for quality-of-life projects benefitting residents in Tulsa and other cities, as well as the county.
An estimated $158 million would be allocated to the city of Tulsa, and city leaders currently are mulling over nearly 20 projects they have culled from citizen input and a list of a dozen projects put forward by Mayor Dewey Bartlett.
Here's a look at some unedited comments from citizens, categorized for your convenience:
Most representative: "The two projects I would particularly like to see included in Vision2 are the Tulsa Children's Museum and the Tulsa Zoo."
By far, the Tulsa Zoo and Tulsa Children's Museum received the most early write-in support among responses turned in through Sept. 4. Nearly one-third of all citizen responses advocated for zoo funding; slightly more than one-third pushed for a permanent home for the Tulsa Children's Museum, which has existed for the last several years as a series of traveling exhibits.
The Tulsa City Council has on its draft list $10 million in funding for the children's museum and $20 million for the Tulsa Zoo. Bartlett, who submitted a list of a dozen projects for consideration to the council, had proposed $20 million for the zoo but no funding for the Tulsa Children's Museum.
Was there online ballot stuffing? Perhaps. One response in favor of the children's museum came from St. Louis, which might be reasonable. However, others came from Oregon and New Jersey.
Best articulated: "I would like the Arkansas River to be an attraction instead of an eyesore ... We have family that come from California and their name for the Arkansas is 'the brown river.' Let's change that. It is well overdue."
Yes, many citizens continue to support public dollars being used on river development. About 25 responses supported river development or projects that would ensure a consistent water level in the river.
Both the council and Mayor Bartlett have favored river projects getting the most Vision2 dollars. Bartlett put forward a proposal to spend $55 million on river engineering projects, while the council is leaning towards $71 million for projects.
Most personalized: "Actual bus service throughout the city. I live 4 miles from my office. However to ride the bus, I have to walk 3/4 a mile in the OPPOSITE direction and then ride a bus for 1 1/2 to 2 hrs. Not everyone works downtown and that seems to be majority of the bus service, to serve the downtown area. Plus, the bus service should be on Sunday and later into the evenings."
Despite a large number of comments either complaining about the lack of reliable public transportation or proposing some kind of trolley or rail service, neither the city council nor Bartlett have thus far proposed using Vision2 dollars to make such improvements.
Shortest response: "Arts." Enough said? Probably not.
Least "creative" response: "I believe that Tulsa has a creative community that doesn't work at the Airport, Oil Company or a Restaurant. I believe that we need creative districts. Can we have some entertainment brought in? Right now, all people have to do in Tulsa is come down town, drink and go home."
Let's hope this person makes use of a taxi service.
Most balanced comment: "As a mother of two young children and a life-time resident of the area, I feel we need to provide more educational and health oriented activities/options to improve the quality of life and also to keep our young people living in our community ... We have a beautiful landscape here in Tulsa and a nice climate. Let's use that to attract others to live here and to promote a stronger sense of community."
It's always nice to end with a compliment.
Conspicuously-absent comments: Perhaps because they tend to fly under the radar, neither Langston University nor Tulsa Community College's Fire Training and Emergency Training Center received any support from commenters. Both projects, however, are on the preliminary list of the Tulsa City Council. Langston University might receive $5 million in public funds, while the fire training project might receive $7 million in funds.
Most intrusive-for-your-own-good comment: "Neighborhood safety -- cameras on street poles on ingress/egress streets and other key areas of neighborhoods, to help deter and catch burglars. Visible cameras, as well as signs advising criminals they are being watched, would help deter crime in those areas ... Neighborhood watch captains could help reduce police man hours by reviewing the tapes on behalf of the neighborhood, and advising police to please check the recording for XYZ neighborhood at X date and time for a suspicious blue compact car. Alternatively, instead of being monitored by neighborhood watch captains, each neighborhood could have a webpage showing live camera images, and either all neighbors, or a small group of elected neighbors, could look at any time."
Some cities have aggressively pursued electronic surveillance, but such a proposal doesn't seem to have much support at least as it relates to Vision2 dollars.
Most inevitable comment: "I hope Vision2 does NOT become a reality. I hope Tulsa pays off its existing debt and that the tax ends."
About 10 comments reflected a strong disagreement with all or part of the Vision2 plan.
Least artfully worded comment: "I would like for the Tulsa Zoo to benefit from Vision2. I believe that a city's zoo is a direct reflection of the community and that it is one of our biggest assets."
The zoo as a "direct reflection" of the community? Let's hope Tulsa citizens distinguish themselves at least a little bit from the animal kingdom.
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