In a recent edition of the Urban Tulsa Weekly, after the Tulsa City Council passed a resolution supporting river development, (OpEd writer) Michael Bates stated that the County Commission and Tulsa Mayor should follow the lead of the City Council as it relates to working to put a similar high quality development in Tulsa. ( ) This is amusing when one knows the facts.
The fact is that this County Commissioner (the writer) and County Commissioner Randi Miller have been meeting with Rick Hudson, Pat Cox and other HCW executives and investors (hereafter referred to as the Branson Landing people) for over a year. We have met numerous times with them since Skiatook developer Ron Howell called each of us in October of 2006 and invited us to visit Branson Landing. Both of us, on separate trips and at our own expense, took his advice and did so.
Subsequently, in November of last year, we met with these same Branson Landing executives and Ron Howell over lunch in the Tulsa area. Commissioner Miller introduced the Branson Landing people to Mayor Taylor and City of Tulsa Economic Director Don Himelfarb. Other meetings followed including one in which I gathered 13 members of the Tulsa legislative delegation for a meeting with these gentlemen in order to educate the state representatives and state senators about Branson Landing type developments. It was done also to show that they too were interested in attracting such a development to Tulsa and to enlist the help of these local leaders.
Commissioner Miller and Deputy Commissioner Terry Simonson have also arranged meetings with the Tulsa Chamber, the Arkansas River Parks Authority and City Councilor Rick Westcott in whose district the west bank area of interest is located. During the past year, there have also been emails and conference calls involving everyone mentioned above. Mayor Taylor and Don Himelfarb have also conducted meetings and been in extensive telephone and email contact with the Branson Landing executives.
The County Commissioners have, for the most part, deferred to the City of Tulsa since the land is located within the City limits of Tulsa. In all of these communications and meetings, Tax Investment Financing (TIFs), the Request for Proposal (RFP) process, and other such topics that Michael Bates suggested in his recent Urban Tulsa Weekly piece, have been discussed at length. So Michael is not introducing anything new when he writes about TIFs and RFPs and the west bank.
It is not necessarily the City Council's job, as part time elected officials, to do the ongoing continuing activity to attract such a development to Tulsa, so I don't fault them for not being more involved. Since the west bank is in his district, Councilman Westcott has worked on the project. But to say that the City Council is all of a sudden "leading the way" because they passed a resolution in support of such development is contrary to the facts.
It is also a fact that had then Mayor Jim Inhofe not pushed for and obtained a low water dam in the Tulsa area in the early 1980s, which was 70 percent financed with public resources, the Branson Landing people wouldn't even be considering Tulsa for a development in the hundreds of millions of dollars. One of the reasons the land is attractive to them, besides the great view of downtown, is that the Zink Dam provides a stretch of "water in the river" most of the time. This proves what other river towns, including Wichita and Oklahoma City, have also shown: That low water dams and pedestrian bridges attract investment and people.
Rest assured that your County Commissioners are continuing to work to get a "Branson Landing type development" to Tulsa and to help other developers. It is obvious from public statements by all three commissioners that we are also interested in doing what is possible to make other low water dams happen in the Tulsa area, and if possible, without further tax increases. We respect the recent 53/47 percent river plan/tax vote and the decision of the voters.
By the way, why Councilman Eagleton continues to advocate a "use surplus Vision 2025 monies to finance low water dams plan" that several bond financing experts have repeatedly said is not feasible, and would even be detrimental, is puzzling.
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