Satire, Cynicism on the River
As the "Vote Yes! for the River" forces continually alter their ads to hopefully bring more voters over to their side, with the "We'll improve roads that lead to the river", and now showing a young family and making it sound as though the only way that the man can support his family is with a job that the river project will create.
Showing kids...lots of kids of every race begging for our support, I can see the next ad going something like this... "Vote Yes for the river, as the river flows so goes World Peace, and everyone wants World Peace. And without your vote for only a 1/2 cent tax we can cure Cancer and Erectile Dysfunction...and ease the trials of menopause.
"Surely you want Johnny and Susie to be able to grow up in a great city, and the only way we can be great is with a great river leading the great way to our great future...after all it is only 1/2 a cent for a great future, so be great and vote Yes, a great Yes.
"And we'll also make the river a homicide-free zone, a great homicide free zone, with extra great police patrolling the great area."
Wasn't the taxes from liquor sales supposed to make things great years ago, then it was the lottery that would make things great again, and then it was the Civic Center that was going to make it great....What Next?
Q. "which would be more useful to a young north Tulsa teen in the summer: An open neighborhood pool within walking distance, or a fancy new park along the river that he can't get to because he's not old enough to drive?" (in re: "Whose River Is It, Anyway?", UTW OpEd, 27 Sept-3 Oct.)
A: Which is more important? Instant gratification, or the increased chance that there will be a job for those you mentioned when they are old enough to drive? In a perfect world, we would want them both. The world is not perfect and we do the best we can.
Straight-Forward about the River Tax
As a lifelong Tulsan, I see parallels between my own life and our City's future. Our City is at a crossroads, one as crucial to its future as the one I must decide in my own life.
After graduating from the University of Oklahoma this past May; I face a critical decision. Do I return to the city which I love? Or do I look at opportunities in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, or Dallas? My childhood friends that have now left the state constantly question why I might remain in Tulsa.
The answer I would like to tell my friends is because Tulsa Voted Yes! for an exciting new plan to revitalize the River and transform our region.
It is clear to me that on October 9, Tulsa has the opportunity to make a decisive leap forward; building a public recreation zone for generations to come. This project can be a centerpiece for our community, something which will draw people together and differentiate Tulsa County on a global scale.
Tulsa has a long history as a world leader, think Oil Capital of the World, but we have lost our advantage in this global economy. In Oklahoma's Centennial Year, Tulsa has been offered an unprecedented $117 million Birthday Gift. Think about building a new home and one of your neighbors offers to pay for 30% of the project to make it bigger and more beautiful. Would you refuse?
I certainly would not. And we, as citizens of Tulsa County, should do our part. Our part comes in the form of a sales tax that will cost the average citizen only 10¢ per day.
Tulsa County overwhelmingly passed the Boeing package in Vision 2025 with 62% of the vote. I believe that was due to the fact that people could firmly grasp the concept. This initiative is actually much more exciting, this is about our quality of life. Every Tulsan will benefit from this proposal which provides a safe, family friendly destination. We will then be able to attract new people to join our Community and convince others to return to a more livable city. I hope that Tulsa will Vote Yes! on October 9th and make my decision to stay in Tulsa an easy one.
Sales Tax Capital of the World?
It seems that those in favor of the River Tax feel free to put forth numerous 'reasons' to support their position most, if not all, of which are suppositions if not outright false statements.
Now is the time to list a number of FACTUAL reasons to vote NO on the River Tax.
The plans put forth providing for large 'flood gates' in each dam to let flood waters through and flush out the sand silt is practical and beneficial.
The priorities of the City and County are out of place. Priority should always be for Police, Fire, Streets, Water and Sewer facilities. Until these are provided in a first class condition, other items of lesser critical nature should wait.
The 'Yes' supporters claim the proposal would create jobs and business. However, good facilities and services of the necessary kind, along with a low tax situation would cause more business to come, with the result of MORE, not less, tax revenue for the "frills". Included in their claims of "9,000 new jobs" are at least half would be during the construction period and therefore temporary.
An additional sales tax would be hardest on the lowest income citizens and would make Tulsa the highest sales taxed city in the Nation. Despite claims to the contrary, this is a "NEW" tax. The "$25.00 per year rebate" to senior citizens is NOT a good deal. It would involve spending about $800.00 to get a $25.00 refund, and the procedure, as outlined, would be inconvenient, complicated, and cumbersome.
The proposal for the ballot initiative was rushed into action without proper study. This is thought to be for the purpose of sneaking it by the voters. The wording on the ballot is vague at best and appears to be granting the County a 'blank check' to do whatever the Commissioners wish with the money.
The "Vision 2025" initiative included about $5.5 million for Construction of three low-water dams. It seems that the intentions of the officials would be more believable if some work with this amount had been done or started, such as the proposed modifications to the Zink Dam.
The Arena project in the Vision 2025 tax is greatly over budget, with the suspicion that funds projected for other projects have been diverted to that item.
The necessary permit(s) from the Corps of Engineers has not been issued. In fact, a recent news story quoted a spokesperson as saying the study had not even started yet, and that it is very possible that no permit will ever be issued. A report from the Fish and Wildlife department has
suggested some objections to the entire project. NO VOTE SHOULD BE HELD UNTIL THE DESIGN IS COMPLETE AND THE NECESSARY PERMIT(S) ISSUED.
There are too many different projects all included in the question. Each project: trails, bridges, dams, parks, etc. should be a separate question on the ballot.
The proposed dams would not provide a continuous stretch of water from the first to the last, but the plans shown call for lengths of 'river' below each dam before the next 'lake' begins and call for money to be spent to 'channelize' those stretches. The plans, as stated in meetings, are to provide for 'canoeing, kayaking, and white water rafting'. All these activities are for the very
young with nothing for those of us older citizens.
The plans call for two 'pedestrian bridges' across the river at 41st and 61st Streets South, while the existing one at 28th Street is not regularly used and the one proposed at 61st Street would be built over the sewage disposal plant on the West Side. There are no plans for a 41st
Street auto bridge as has long been in the master plan.
Mr. Himelfarb, of the City, has stated that there would be NO commercial development along the river, but recreation and park. The City cannot maintain the park and recreation facilities now in place, so why
In my opinion, the dams should be built close enough to provide a continuous water connection from one to the next, with a lock in each so that small boats could go from one to another, with the size and power/speed of such boats limited. There could even be commercial restaurant boats available.
Robert W. McDowell, Jr.
Hipster for the River Tax
We all know the song by the Beastie Boys whose chorus goes--"You've got to fight for your right..." The song goes on to discuss one's right to party, but the message is equally applicable to Tulsa County and our fight to live in a great community.
If you have a pulse and reside within the county's borders, you have seen the signs, gotten the forwards, and heard the water cooler talk about the river proposal. My parents who are immigrants asked me to summarize the issue being voted on October 9. The issue we vote on October 9 is whether we want our county to remain stagnate like our current river or want the opportunity to develop and grow as a community.
I will vote YES October 9 because I believe that though our cities are good places to live, they can be better and this proposal helps get us there.
Reasons I will vote YES:
1. A $117 million dollar private gift whose only requirement is that we as Tulsa County residents share a small portion of the costs.
2. No private development will come in and develop a river bank where there is no water. The proposal provides for low-water dams and bank stabilization that allow such private development.
3. Businesses setting up in new locales look to see what community entertainment options are available. Tulsa County deserves to be able to compete with the Kansas City, Little Rock, and Oklahoma City's of the country.
4. As a community, we deserve to make our greatest natural asset pretty enough to be proud of, brag about, and venture to on weekends.
Those who Vote No have points that should be considered, but points that are still outweighed by the immediate and potential benefits of the river proposal.
Opponents to the river development plan seem to share two concerns: 1) our roads and 2) the weight of additional taxes.
Our Roads: Everyone hates our roads. But, how often do you hear about people moving out of Tulsa or Broken Arrow because the roads were so bad? On the other hand, we regularly watch news stories about businesses electing not to set up offices or facilities here. Developing a thriving water front with activities and opportunities for community development will only help entice businesses and individuals to move to Tulsa. More movement into Tulsa means more tax dollars and more tax dollars means roads--always in need of repairs--will get fixed.
Additional Tax Dollars: Who wakes up in the morning and says "I want to pay more taxes." I certainly don't and I don't expect any of you who work hard for your money to gleefully turn over more money to the government. However, some things are worth a few dollars and this project is worth more than we are being asked to put in. For those who are struggling to get by or on fixed incomes, this proposal includes numerous provisions to help.
I love where I live and I want to continue to see it prosper. Help us in our fight for a better Tulsa County by voting YES with me on October 9.
Brian Ervin really brought forward an aspect of the proposed Arkansas River development project which nobody else is touching - namely POLLUTION ("Unhealthy Development?" in the September 20-26 edition of UTW). In addition to the sewage effluent, which Ervin discusses, there is also oil pollution.
There are two refineries on the river which are almost a hundred years old. During that time (especially in the early years) thousands of gallons of crude oil and petroleum products were dumped into the river and into the water table beneath the refinery sites.
Some of this dumping was accidental, some was intentional. In fact, there was such a layer of oil on top of the water table beneath Sun's refinery that oil wells actually were drilled to economically pump the oil out! And some of that oil is still there, either in the river bed or adjoining it.
The Arkansas is a typical western river - at times there is a lot of water flowing down the channel, at other times there is very little. Lakes behind dams are healthy IF a more or less continuous flow is sustained. But at times of low river flow, the water impounded behind the dams cannot help but become polluted, both with sewage effluent and oil products.
Keystone dam and lake can only do so much in keeping the water flow going at a sustainable rate. There are bound to be times when very little water can be let to flow downstream from the dam. Then serious pollution could occur. After all, aren't we told, even now, to not eat any fish caught in Zink Lake because they may be chemically polluted?
Conflict of Interest
I have been following your commentaries and those of Brain Ervin concerning the proposed river development and tax. I agree with most of your points, though I am basically for the plan for quality of life issues NOT economic (I believe the economic benefits are grossly over-stated). I can get further into those matters, but not here. I have another critical issue to present to you.
But the major aim of this is that there is a very pertinent and clear conflict of interest involving Gaylon Pinc. Both the (daily paper) as well as Urban Tulsa Weekly ("Unhealthy Development," City, 20-26 September) point out:
"(Kevin) Stubbs (a fish and wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service) serves on an advisory committee on Arkansas River development to the Army Corps of Engineers. However, when media reports quoted Gaylon Pinc, an environmental consultant for Tulsa County and the Corps, saying, "Development will cause no harm to fish and wildlife..." Stubbs told UTW that he had to speak up." (emphasis added)
The problem is that when Gaylon was employed by INCOG, he helped develop the river plan, and left INCOG to work for the consulting firm which is working on and managing the river plan. Gaylon is the firm's river project manager. He is also the environmental consultant to Tulsa County and the Corps on the river project????? This is a clear conflict of interest.
He would in no way be giving unbiased opinions or advice. He continues close contacts with INCOG's upper management on the river project. The Corps, performing the environmental reviews of the river projects, must be able to prepare objective and unbiased recommendations.
I have known Gaylon Pinc for 25 years. I worked with him at INCOG (where I was the Senior Research Analyst doing statistical and GIS analysis) -- I retired January 1st of this year. He is a good engineer, nice guy, etc. However, this situation is a clear conflict of interest.
I hope you can report, question or otherwise bring this up to officials at the County, the Corps or whom ever should know and can fix the situation.
I'm writing because of a unique experience I had on last Tuesday, September 18. I had the pleasure and honor of being involved in a civic forum with City Councilor John Eagleton, Gaylon Pinc of PMG, and John Piercy. The setting was a debate sponsored by TulsaNow on the new river plan and the tax which would fund that plan.
Councilor Eagleton and I were seated as the "no's" against the plan. Pinc and Piercy were seated for the "yes" campaign. Pinc is one of the primary planners of INCOG's river master-plan (of which only about ? of this plan actually is- though that has been largely ignored by the yes campaign for reasons unknown), and a chief architect behind this river proposal.
Piercy is involved in the funding aspects of Vision 2025 and I believe would be as well for this project. PMG is the chief project manager for "Four to Fix the County", Vision 2025, and would be the project manager for the river plan.
Myself, I'm a life-long resident of the city of Tulsa. My sole interest is to see what is best for our area and for all citizens. I am not affiliated with the vote no campaign in any way. My opinions are my own, and I think are shared with many other common citizens.
The fall-out from this debate has been outright personal attacks on Councilor Eagleton by the vote yes people. There was a scathing editorial printed in the Sept. 20 issue of the Tulsa World which I suspect was penned by either Gaylon Pinc or John Piercy.
I've always been told that when you have to resort to personal attacks on a person, that means you really have no valid points to bring up in an argument.
The Tulsa World has printed very little of the negative side of this issue. If the only place you get your news is the World, it's almost as if there are no pitfalls to voting for this now.
The World has become a free advertising vehicle for this plan and has promoted it with complete impunity. I now believe the alternative press in Tulsa has become more vital than our daily paper in truly giving both sides of an important issue equal footing and reporting.
This is an issue which has divided Republicans from Republicans Democrats from Democrats, and has found Democrats and Republicans either singing the praises for the plan in unison or joined in disdain for the plan. That in itself is amazing.
There has been so much bitterness between Democrats and Republicans for the last 20 years that someone who is for a tax is considered a "liberal" and someone against is a rabid "conservative". I admit to leaning toward being a fiscal conservative. Out of the four panelists, I was the only one who has nothing to gain or lose as a bureaucrat or politician. Two of the men on the panel gain more job security if this issue passes, another may or may not be re-elected to the city council based on his stance on this plan.
Councilor Eagleton seems to usually present a voice of reason on any issue he has tackled. He may not care to continue to try to make a difference after this term. I don't know that I would as much as his caution toward new liabilities aimed at taxpayer's are consistently ignored. Myself, I have nothing to gain professionally nor financially. As a citizen of Tulsa County, I would gain no more and no less than we all could if there were a well thought-out and fully researched plan to bring more life to the Arkansas River.
Prior to this debate, I had questioned the haste with which this was brought to a vote. I had figured they must have all the details together and many great plans had been worked out in the last three or four years, otherwise a generous donation by some prominent Tulsans wouldn't have caused a rush to vote.
As I tried to educate myself about this issue, I found that I became more skeptical due to the surprising lack of specifics presented in this plan. I have waited patiently for several months for more details to appear. They still have not.
After the debate, in which I participated with two people who should have all the answers as to the logistical and financial aspects of the plan, I am even more convinced they are really not ready to bring this up for a vote.
I even went into this debate with enough of an open mind that with access to some of the brain trust on the project, that I would be willing to vote for it if they could give me substantive reasons to vote for it.
One thing I gained from it is there are some very good things which could come as a result of this plan. More importantly, I left with the impression that it really is still quite incomplete.
There are several troubling issues with the timing:
-The media has been promising for a few months now that there will be a mass-exodus of Hispanics from the Tulsa area by November 1st as a result of HB-1804. This would certainly cause our sales tax base to shrink, potentially slowing sales tax collection rates along with potentially raising the cost of any new construction in the area due to manpower shortages.
-There is a key environmental impact study on the river plan due from the Corps of Engineers "this fall". As of yet it, has not been completed and it might after we vote on Oct. 9 before it is. I am of the assumption this could impact the final design of the plan.
-The City of Tulsa just seated a committee to study our crumbling road infrastructure. Their conclusions are due in December and we can all be certain there will be a request for funding via higher taxes. I believe it is a valid concern to worry that any additional tax increases after a new river tax would be rejected and we will suffer with rapidly degrading roads for many years to come.
We need to think about what our wants and needs are. Needs should always be placed ahead of wants on a list of priorities. Those who are for fixing the streets first are now condescendingly referred to as the "fix the streets first crowd."
Some people have blamed a weak presentation by the yes campaign on Mr. Pinc and Dr.Piercy as not being the greatest of public speakers. Some have said they simply were not prepared. For two men who have worked in-depth on this project, that is a fallacious argument. This was as impartial a forum as could have been created.
Questions were solicited from the public prior to, and during the debate and drawn at random. There have been other "forums" around the city, but to my knowledge prior to this point, there had been no attempt to bring both sides to the same table to express their views. If anything, Councilor Eagleton and I should have had a distinct disadvantage.
The truth as it became incredibly obvious is that there is an incomplete plan which is being rushed under the nose of voters. The campaign is full of hyperbole and speculation designed to make us all feel like a bunch of un-caring rubes for not approving this for our children and not giving our grandparents and grandparents a gift before they pass on. If we vote against this, we lack "vision" and don't care about the future of Tulsa.
Speaking of vision, the 2025, as in Vision 2025 must mean we are all myopic. If we question why we are not getting low water dams and Zink Lake improvements as promised on the Vision 2025 ballot and proposition paperwork, the answer is that we should have known all along that those dams and improvements could not be completed for those estimated costs, and that it was contingent on federal funding which was stated in some nebulous V-2025 paperwork and some newspaper interviews in 2003 which until a few months ago had commanded little interest.
Somehow this escaped the attention of thousands of voters when they voted for Vision 2025. If all you had to go on was the ballot you marked that day, you would believe that you, as a citizen of Tulsa County, were promised low water dams at Jenks and Sand Springs and Zink Lake improvements and by marking yes for that proposition they would be built.
That's the way it read then, that's the way it reads now. Nothing changes that when river tax proponents essentially tell you that you are stupid for not figuring that out or for making the incorrect assumption that a low water dam can be built for around $5 million these days.
So far as I am concerned, proposition IV of the Vision 2025 proposal documents and the Vision 2025 ballot constituted a legal contract between the county and the authority created to manage Vision 2025 and the citizens of Tulsa County.
I assure you, when a contractor does not deliver as promised to the city or county, there are severe consequences. For some reason there appears to be a lack of reciprocity when it comes to the county or city having accountability on projects to their citizens.
We are being led into this vote by the same people who are now saying there was no way dams could be built for the funds allotted, and the same people we tried to get to realize that an 18,000 seat arena could not possibly be built for $180 million. This was well before Hurricane Katrina raised the price of lumber along the gulf coast.
Never mind that our arena is not constructed of lumber, but rather concrete with Arkansas River sand and east Tulsa aggregate, and steel. This was another excuse leveled at the cost overruns on the new BOK Arena. Granted, steel prices have increased. But it seems we have a chronic problem getting public projects completed within budget estimates in our community.
I am all for bettering the Tulsa area, especially taking advantage of our wonderful natural resource: the Arkansas River. I'm even for a funding mechanism of 4/10 of a cent, if it turns out we really cannot fund the improvements with Vision 2025 overages. However, I am not willing to sit by quietly while the county and some of the more influential people in our community try to give us the bum's rush for a blank purchase order. It makes absolutely no sense. It is an especially poor business decision to make such a huge financial commitment for a plan with so little detail. I assure you private business does not operate in this manner.
I have tried to this point to refrain from using the old cliché, "bait and switch". People say that the best way to predict the future is to look at history. We already got one bait and switch out of Vision 2025, don't think it won't happen again. Vote no on October 9 and force the people behind this to go back to the drawing board and truly finish their work before bringing it back for our approval. If the finished plan looks as good as some of the preliminary details, I'd be all for it. I personally believe they have not completed their work. Once that work is completed, then we can reward them with a vote of our confidence.
Share this article: