Well it's over. Our great national election contest and our Vision2 proposition campaigns are at an end.
As UTW readers know, our huge, nearly billion dollar Vision2 effort was rejected decisively. We witnessed an earnest, if terribly confusing, attempt to offer a taxpayer funded reanimation of Tulsa's battered spot in the volatile civilian aerospace economy. A controversial side effort was also mounted to provide the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce with a $50 million fund to aid long-standing business attraction efforts. Vision2 was also an attempt to fund a range of public infrastructure, facility, and related projects, including extremely important projects connected to our first-rate library system, the planned OU/TU medical school project downtown, our zoo, and some new projects, including partial backing for an inventive children's museum and a badly needed effort to reanimate park and recreational facilities in north Tulsa.
There was much anger and a good deal of disappointment associated with the Vision2 advocates' failure to solicit broad participation in the design of the aerospace and economic development packages: a big irritation that alienated some people in the business community and plenty of other Tulsans who would normally back an initiative that might improve job quality.
And there were also a bevy of public policy people and Tulsa boosters who would normally be in favor of many of the social betterment projects included in the quality of life initiative -- the part B element of Vision2 -- who were offended by the haste and atrocious lack of open, early engagement in the package. And then there was the $71 million river element: Lots of Tulsans were confused, including this writer, about what the mayor's and council's objectives were here. River development is almost certainly part of Tulsa's future and a very good thing on the merits, but how the now-defeated Vision2 funding increment would actually advance the state of play from a recreational, economic, or even a scenic perspective was never clear. And the host of collateral land purchase, environmental, and "top off" funding problems were also not addressed.
National Nexus -- Moving Beyond Red State Isolation
There is an array of huge national-scope issues that, at least for the time being, the national election puts to rest -- like the future of Obamacare. The new era means that Oklahoma will be -- assuming that Gov. Mary Fallin can read the election results -- the beneficiary of billions of dollars of additional federal money for quality health care. This means mitigating much misery, doing justice for people with terrible maladies, and providing many millions in new, in-state, health and biomed business opportunities.
From a vantage that focuses on business opportunity alone, we can look to an aggressive rollout of some of the giant health care cost containment projects outlined in the Affordable Care Act -- some very large efforts designed to emulate and/or advance the core notions crafted at the Mayo Clinic, the storied Cleveland Clinic, and other leading U.S. health care facilities.
And the local spark is very strong: Several Tulsa area hospitals and universities are already deeply engaged in the new pathways encouraged by the Act. With Barack Obama's re-election we can now benefit enormously -- thanks to the enlightened, health care "pre-positioning" leadership of people like Dr. Gerard Clancy and Dr. David Kendrick at OU, John Silva at Morton Health Systems, Dr. Bruce Dart at Tulsa Health Department, Jan Figart of the Community Service Council and Russ Burkhart of Indian Health Care Resource Center. Saying yes to the new era means that Oklahoma will almost certainly be the beneficiary of a passel of exciting opportunities in health care innovation and radical new forms of patient care and service delivery.
Energy & Climate
Mayor Dewey Bartlett, UTW readers will recall, began his campaign for mayor in 2008 pledging to try to make Tulsa the "alternative energy capital." And while there has been very good progress on a matrix of internal efforts to make city hall's vast operations more energy efficient -- the mayor's larger "alt energy" project is not apparent. Barack Obama's re-election surely offers Tulsa a passel of high yield opportunities to redouble our participation in the emerging energy world. And while we obviously are at the center of the "new gas" revolution, it seems clear that aggressively sharpening Tulsa's competitive strategy means we need to be an unambiguous leader in geo-thermal, advanced batteries, solar, next gen biofuels, distributed energy, and a host of other "spaces" where we are uniquely positioned by virtue of our long-standing leadership in the energy arena.
The failure of Vision2 shouldn't poison the waters: There are a whole range of inventive public-private ventures -- some with local university connections, some with a stout local business nexus -- that we should continue to explore, seed fund and scale up. But we need to fully engage citizens, the broader business community, and outsiders in our next energy chapter -- especially if local public dollars are in the mix. Our "red state" atmospherics and voting patterns shouldn't constrain our efforts to engage the federal establishment and the emerging energy community in crafting tangible projects that could advance our quest to become a world leader community.
Overall, it looks as though there were some pretty significant leadership and process failures that led to the Vision2 defeat. Vision2 was packed with uncertainties and vaguely defined projects and constructed in a way that made communicating the effort a very daunting task. Role problems -- perennial "who calls the shot" quandaries -- were also brought into sharp contrast by the Vision2 campaign. What, for example, are the best roles of Green Country elected officials in crafting large, monster scope, economic development efforts? Why should the Metropolitan Chamber shape them in a large, nearly exclusive fashion, as they did in Vision2? Shouldn't there be a much stouter role for citizens, unions, our technology and university communities, neighborhoods, and the larger business community in putting multi-decade long development initiatives together? Another fundamental problem stems from Vision2's attenuated (at best) connection to PlaniTulsa -- the citizen-centric, mass participation process that led to our new comprehensive plan. While PlaniTulsa, or any planning effort, shouldn't be an inflexible dictum that negatively constrains the city's opportunities, the outputs of a very inclusive participatory effort should clearly play a leading role in a huge, multi-faceted improvement initiative -- one that would have actively shaped physical, economic and social development in Tulsa for many, many years.
Let's dust ourselves off, roll out the biggest tent we can find, reboot our "improvement/futures machine" and get back to cases.
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