Michael Bates raised some interesting doubts about the River Tax prior to its defeat in (the 9 Oct.) referendum, especially as to whether it was a good means to the desirable end of Arkansas River improvements. Next to other opponents of the River Tax, however, Bates looks like a lonely eccentric.
Their concerns were not his. As long as we're going to try to "read" the rejection of the River Tax, we must acknowledge that this was a victory not for Bates' brand of skepticism but for something else altogether.
The Tulsa city councilors and suburban mayors who led the no-tax movement relied chiefly on two pillars of what we might call the TMM philosophy: Tulsa Metro Mediocrity.
(1) The welfare of Owasso, Broken Arrow, etc, has nothing to do with what goes on in Tulsa.
That's the conviction of anyone who bought the line that we shouldn't have "a county tax for a city project" -- because then, of course, Owasso and BA would be paying for exclusively Tulsa benefits!
Were these people born yesterday? What do they reckon Frisco, Tx., would be without Dallas? or Overland Park, Ks., without Kansas City? I work, in Tulsa, with people who live in Owasso and BA. My colleagues wouldn't even be in this state if not for the Tulsa job that brought them here.
While Bates raised fair questions about whether Arkansas River improvements would really result in economic growth, the most vocal opponents of the River Tax would remain opposed even if the answer were a resounding "yes" -- because they don't want to pay for progress that they believe would be confined to Tulsa. That's the kind of thinking you'll find only in the most benighted pockets of mediocrity in this country nowadays -- hence our very own TMM.
Many folks in North Tulsa see themselves also as outsiders who don't benefit from progress in the rest of the city. So they joined forces with the "no" campaign. The difference is that, tragically, North Tulsa has good historical reasons for thinking this way -- whereas the very opposite is the case with the suburbs, if they're honest with themselves (and were born sometime before yesterday).
(2) Local government can't walk and chew gum at the same time.
That's the conviction of anyone who bought the line that you shouldn't raise money for river improvements as long as roads, schools, and other bread-and-butter items still need work -- because obviously we can't tackle more than one problem at a time!
Bates himself indulged in this article of TMM when he compared the River Tax to accepting a lump sum of money for fancy decorations in your restaurant when your tables and chairs are broken. Hey, here's a thought: make progress in both areas of your restaurant by using some of the money for one thing and the rest of it for the other!
Can we not make progress on roads, schools, etc, by changing priorities within the regular city budget that aren't touched by a special tax for extra work on the river? Now, I've only been in Tulsa three years, so maybe I'm missing something -- are people around here incapable of working on several fronts at once?
If so, that would go some way toward explaining the TMM I've found here and, apparently, am destined to endure!
Though I voted "yes," I would've considered it a massive silver lining if I thought the successful "no" campaign represented citizens' skepticism about City Hall's choice of means to an obviously desirable end. Based on what I've seen and heard, however, the real reasons behind the vote are devastatingly simple, and discouraging.
Before city and county leaders try any more schemes to drag us out of our cultural and economic mediocrity, I propose the following non-binding county-wide referendum:
"How long should the Tulsa metro area remain in its present state of mediocrity?
"(a) No longer -- enough is enough!
"(b) Just a few years -- until the next gusher sends us all back to the 50's again.
"(c) A decade or two -- until our kids have grown up and left town for greener pastures. (Change is bad for children, you know.)
"(d) Indefinitely -- we just like it this way!"
After seeing the results of this poll, and coming to grips with the true depths of TMM, our leaders could save the trouble (and campaign expenses) of future schemes. And George Kaiser could really save himself a lot of time and energy!
J S Maloy
Editor's Note. In view of the city council's action last week in committing itself to river development, there is hope!
I wonder if you people at this paper understand that the only reason that Tulsans pick up this paper to look at is because it is free and like to look at what is going on around town for the weekend. Nobody cares about what somebody thinks about a movie or what Michael Bates thinks how this city should be run. If he knows so much why doesnt he run for mayor? I have kids and grandkids and we all are homegrown Tulsans and what has he done to make Tulsa a better place to live. I hope him and all the other hardheaded dumb old okies are glade they voted no to take a free donation of money that would make Tulsa a better place to live. Now we want to know what his game plan is to make Tulsa a better place to stay here and enjoy in our lifetime.
Editor's Note: A little more intellectual curiosity earlier down that old, dusty road might have done you well. At this juncture, a smidge of "grammar and spellcheck" at least. Or, at least, have the grandkids proof future missives.
Odd Yes Vote Endorsers
In the October 7 daily paper there was a two-page centerfold add by the pro-river tax people calling themselves "Citizens for Tulsa County" listing 40 prominent or well-known individuals making statements in favor of a "Yes" vote. Several among those raise questions as to why they would choose to be involved in this matter, since they did not live in Tulsa County and, to my knowledge, have never been involved in Tulsa or Tulsa County affairs. Their presence seems to represent an action of desperation, and in my opinion improper, move for the 'Yes' supporters.
Among those with no evident connection to our affairs are University of Oklahoma President David Boren, Governor Brad Henry, District 2 Member of Congress Dan Boren, Former Governor Frank Keating who now lives in Washington D.C. Area, and former Mayor and former President of Rogers State
University Roger Randle who moved to Claremore. It seems out of place for these non-citizens of Tulsa County to interject their opinions into a strictly Tulsa County election.
It was also very disappointing to me, and many other Republicans, to find several now holding office as such on this add, including Representative Chris Benge, Counselor Rick Westcott, and Congressman John Sullivan, despite the fact that the Platform of the Tulsa County Republican Party specifically stipulates opposition to ANY new taxes, ESPECIALLY the proposed County sales tax for river development. This is a violation of their allegiance to the Party. Several of the other office holders listed may also be registered as Republican, but all of them can now be considered to be RINOs (Republican in Name Only). Their actions are detrimental to the image of the Republican Party since it is historically opposed, as a party, to higher taxes and larger, more intrusive government at all levels.
These, and others of importance, being in this ad issurprising and disappointing since the wording of the ballot was such that there was no guarantee that the funds from the tax would be used for the stated purpose, but could be used for any other purpose the County Commission saw fit to divert them to.
Robert W. McDowell, Jr.
Looking for New World View
The only thing more humorous than watching conservatives, liberals and libertarians' debate is to read their rationalizations in print.
Pity the poor liberal, everyone is a victim in need of government salvation, education and care. For them, people turn to drugs to escape empty, disparate lives.
Conservatives hear voices from God ordering their foot steps and numbering their days. One wonders how they determine truth when two or more disagree if all are receiving instructions from the same God.
As for libertarians, they seem to see drugs as just one more toy to be played with and then thrown away during the party they call life.
Can they all be correct? Are any of them correct? How do we make value judgments? On what basis do we hold ourselves and others accountable for their actions?
Libertarians like former Federal Reserve Chairman and Ayn Rand devotee, Alan Greenspan, view the world as a game of Darwinian Blackjack with clearly defined winners and losers. Winners deserve whatever they get as a result of their risk/reward decisions and losers receive their comeuppance as a result of the choices they make.
Conservatives sacrifice freedom for social order. If you listen closely you can hear those phrases echoing from such political luminaries as Russia's, Vladimir Putin and China's Hu Jintao.
Is it just me or do most thoughtful people become just a little nervous when told, as does Dr. Paul Kengor in his Urban Tulsa Weekly editorial of Oct. 11-17, 2007, that his philosophy is... grounded in and guided by eternal truths... and does not separate itself from God. This position, shrouded as it is in unquestionable, eternal truths, can be used to justify any decision or outcome.
Social order does not result from the pursuit of unrestricted license or theological dispensation. Social order is not static, it is ever changing as new influences are encountered and absorbed. So much evil has been committed in the name of religion that a growing number of serious minded people are questioning whether religion itself is a healthy influence believing that wars and terrorism are the result of collisions of faith.
What is needed is a new vision, founded on the principals of openness, honesty and integrity. A core tenet must be the belief that each person is entitled to the sanctity of their person, the protection of their property and the security of their beliefs up to the point where those civil liberties infringe on others. This infringement must not be theoretical but authentic.
A culture which truly respects and acknowledges the right of individuals and sects to be unique within the context of the larger social order is the principal upon which our country was founded. That said, we must acknowledge that no right is unlimited and no action, unrestricted.
Dr. Mark Hendrickson, in his editorial of the same date, correctly notes that terrorist, criminals and totalitarian regimes control nations, dictate policy to governments and use violence against the innocent. Those who consume illicit drugs are contributing to the infringement of the above expressed tenets by their actions. Drug usage is not a victimless crime, it degrades the user, ensnares the supplier and entraps the bystanders.
The problem is not so much whether boundaries or codes of conduct are appropriate but rather how they are established. We are social animals, existing in groups to the mutual benefit of all.
Dynamic organizations capable of respectful but earnest debate must exist free of undue duress. Drs. Hendrickson's and Kengor provide us with an excellent example, even if it is of where not to go.
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