I pay taxes, all kinds of taxes, including sales taxes that are collected by the City of Tulsa. While sales taxes are not the only form of tax that the City collects, sales taxes represent a majority of the funds that make up the general fund of the City, which amounts to more than $550 million for 2007 and 2008. About two-thirds of the money is allocated to police, fire and public works. About 30 million is allocated for "Cultural Development and Recreation" which includes the Park Department, Gilcrease Museum, Convention Center, Performing Arts Center and River Parks. It is my understanding that the budget for the Parks Department was cut during a budget crunch.
There is a park across the street from where I live called "Plaza of the Americas." Most people have never heard of this park because it is very small and very inconspicuous. It use to have a bust of Simon Bolivar setting on top of pedestal in the middle of the park but the bust belonged to Citgo and when it left town the bust was removed and it can now be found just north of the entrance to the Gilcrease Museum. It is probably better to have the bust of the Liberator of the Americas at the Gilcrease where visitors will appreciate it rather than in a park full of homeless folks who probably do not have a clue who Simon Bolivar was and what he did that was significant.
The Plaza of the Americas has a fountain integrated into its design. Like most of the other fountains downtown except for the Bartlett Square fountain, it does not work. The Plaza of the Americas is not generally very well kept. On any given day, it is generally littered with trash, cigarette butts, beer cans, discarded clothing and other unsightly and smelly stuff. It often smells like you know what in the northeast corner of the plaza, which is not visible from Denver at the bottom of the stairs.
Last year, Mayor Taylor asked all Tulsans to turn out for an hour or so and clean up the City of Tulsa to make it look better to visitors to the golf tournament. I learned a long time ago that when my Mother or my Wife tell me to do something the answer should be "Yes, Mama." Because Kathy Taylor is sort of the mother of our fair city, I said "Yes, Mama", picked up a broom, a shovel and some plastic bags and headed over to "The Plaza of the Americas." I knew that I would have to get started right (a way) because cleaning up the "Plaza of the Americas" was going to take more than an hour of my time. Fortunately, Central Park, where my wife and I live, has a gas powered leaf blower, which I borrowed. The machine that lawn and garden maintenance folks love and I generally hate came in very handy in expediting my work on "The Plaza of the Americas" and Seventh Street from Denver to the Doubletree Hotel. I worked a couple of hours the first morning until it got too hot but kept going back until "The Plaza of the Americas" is as bright and shiny as a new penny on August 4th.
There was also a lot of sand on 7th Street that had never been swept up from the previous sanding by the Street Department to address snow and ice issues during winter storms. So, I took by broom and shovel and cleaned up the sand and any trash that I found along the street from Denver to Frisco. I also noticed that the grass in the media between Elwood and Frisco so I recruited my friend Wayne who has a riding mower to cut the grass. When we finished, our little section of Downtown Tulsa looked pretty good for the 800 people who live where I live and for the guests of the Doubletree Hotel just west of the entrance to our property.
I was, however, a little disconcerted by the Mayor's request that I help clean up the City of Tulsa. I thought that I had already paid to make sure that was done when I paid my taxes. Obviously, I was mistaken. Because I live inside the Downtown Tulsa Improvement District No. 4, I not only pay the taxes that every other Tulsan pays, I pay extra to make sure that the streets and alleys in my neighborhood are kept clean. I believe that if the Mayor were to take a walk with me in my neighborhood, she would probably conclude that I am not getting my money's worth from the taxes that I pay. The police station is a block north of my home and there is a fire station a block south, for which I am thankful and appreciative, but the street in front of my house had sand on it that was spread on the street in the Winter of 2007 after a snow storm, the grass on the median had not been cut and the Plaza of the Americas was trashed.
Nearly a year later, the street in front of my home needs to be swept, the park needs to be cleaned up, the grass needs to be cut and litter needs to be picked up along the street again. I live on the 9th Floor of a twenty story building in the southwest corner of Downtown Tulsa. I have a great view of Downtown Tulsa day and night. I walk to work most days, which saves me money on gasoline and I get some exercise. I love working downtown, living downtown and playing downtown, but I am bothered by what I see both downtown and all over town. What I see is a city that has lost its fiscal way. What we have is a city that is not taking care of the basics of city government. A city that is not cleaning the streets, a city that is not cutting the grass, a city that is not keeping its parks clean, a city that does not have enough police officers and a city that does not have enough firemen.
I wanted my neighborhood to be cleaner and neater than it was and so, I responded to the Mayor's call to clean up and neaten up my neighborhood so that visitors to our fair city would be impressed with it. I personally made sure that visitors to Tulsa who stayed at the Doubletree Hotel on 7th Street would not see the tall grass in the park and on the median that was there because the City and DTU did not do what they were paid by me and others to do. But I ask: "Why should I have to clean up the park, sweep the street and cut the grass on the street right-of-way in my neighborhood. Haven't my neighbors and I already paid to have that done?"
The Spring of 2008 is about over and the Plaza of the Americas is trashed again. The Plaza of the Americas has been cleaned up once this year and 7th Street needs to be swept. The grass in the median needs also needs to be cut.
It can be argued that Seventh Street is one of the most important streets in Downtown Tulsa because so many out-of-town visitors travel upon it on their way to and from the Doubletree Hotel and the airport. It is important to me because it runs in from of my home and it is not being properly cared for by the City or DTU.
I, like most people, get upset when I pay for a good or service and do not get what I have bought. I really get upset when I pay for something twice and do not get what I bought. That is why I am upset with the City and Downtown Tulsa Unlimited. I have paid twice for governmental services and I have not gotten what I and my neighbors paid for with out taxes.
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