As far as anyone knows, City Councilor John Eagleton has no psychic powers, but he might not need them to predict the future in this particular instance.
"I anticipate a resolution to come before the City Council in which we'll be asked to go on the record to support the river tax," he told UTW early last week during an interview on an unrelated matter.
Eagleton said he expected Tulsa County Commissioners Randi Miller, Fred Perry and John Smaligo, as well as several of the contributors to the $111 million in private donations held up as incentive for $282 million in public funds, to "lean on the City Council" to offer their support for the river development plan.
That plan calls for a 0.4 percent increase in sales tax, for which a countywide vote is scheduled for Oct. 9.
If Eagleton indeed is psychic, his particular powers might fall under the category of mind reading rather than clairvoyance, as the councilor later mentioned the beginning of his prediction's fulfillment in having been "officially approached" with "a very compelling argument for the river tax."
He wouldn't divulge who the person doing the approaching and compelling was, since, as the councilor put it, "It was a conversation between gentlemen."
As "compelling" as the argument might have been, though, Eagleton said he doesn't yet find himself compelled to support the new tax.
If the councilor could see the future, he would have seen another resolution coming before the City Council which might head pro-river tax interests off at the pass.
The day after Eagleton pronounced his oracle, fellow Councilor Roscoe Turner proposed a resolution opposing the sales tax but supporting development along the Arkansas River.
Along with his opposition to the tax increase, much of Turner's opposition was fueled by the County Commission having recently voted to remove one the City of Tulsa's three members to the nine-person public trust to administer the river tax.
"It was mean-spirited of them to do that at the last minute," Councilor Maria Barnes later said of the County government's move.
"To have it worked out with the Mayor and then to have changed it . . . Why did they do that?" she said.
Turner said 75 percent of the Tulsa County sales tax is collected within Tulsa city limits, while the County Commission's resolution left the city with only 22 percent representation on the trust with its two remaining members.
While all, or at least most, of the City Council members objected to the removal of one of the city's representatives from the trust, most also opposed Turner's resolution as "premature."
"If Roscoe would wait a few days, several of the paragraphs (in the County Commission resolution) would be resolved--Fred (Perry) plans to bring this thing up at the next County Commission meeting," Councilor Rick Westcott told UTW.
Eagleton said he opposed Turner's resolution because he believed "it goes a little bit farther than is necessary to protect the city's interests" in that it opposed any county tax at all, including the possible extension of existing taxes.
Westcott's prediction came true, and the Commission voted to amend the resolution to include three representatives from the city.
Smaligo had suggested removing the position to open a place for a representative of the Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG), which created the river development plan.
Perry, though, said he had "underestimated the importance" of the position with the City Council.
Miller had voted against the removal of the seat.
Despite the reversal by the County Commission, Turner still brought his resolution before the Council that evening at last week's meeting.
Six of the nine councilors voted to postpone taking action on his resolution.
As expected, Turner was one of the three dissenters, along with Councilor Jack Henderson.
Surprisingly, though, Westcott was among the three who wanted the Council to take action on Turner's resolution.
While the councilor had called the resolution "premature," he told UTW he voted to act on it because, "Once it was out there--once public discussion had been had, I just wanted to act on it and get it out of the way."
Prior to the Council meeting, Westcott told UTW that, initially, his "fiscally conservative standing position" led him to philosophically oppose a tax increase, but that was before he researched the issues surrounding this particular proposal.
"Sen. Inhofe hasn't said he supports this particular plan, but he's said that for him to support a plan for a tax increase for river development, there would have to be a 3-1 ratio of private-public funds," the councilor explained.
"That's what we have here," Westcott said.
While there would be $282 million in public funds going toward the project, he said about $800 million in private development funds would go into the river's development, but those commitments are contingent on the tax increase.
But, the increase in revenue from the development and new businesses to follow would multiply many times whatever public funds are invested into the project, he assured.
"This will ultimately lead to an increase in sales tax revenue for the city, which will ultimately be more money for street repair and for police and all the other things people complain about," said Westcott.
"I also look at this as an infrastructure project, and that's what government is supposed to do--this plan is a good public policy," he added.
Turner's resolution is scheduled for further discussion during this week's Council meeting.
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