The Planning Continues
Members of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission will begin considering the PLANiTULSA recommendations in a public meeting scheduled for 4pm on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at City Hall.
The hearing is the first of two for the TMAPC on the subject of PLANiTULSA, which is the process by which the city's comprehensive plan is being updated. The second meeting is scheduled for 1pm on Wednesday, March 10, also at City Hall.
Theron Warlick, a city planner who has worked extensively on the plan, said the TMAPC hearings will provide the public with another chance to provide its input on the recommendations before commissioners vote whether to adopt the plan.
"That's part of the process," Warlick said. "(Commissioners) can't make a decision without public input. They're not going to guess."
Meanwhile, PLANiTULSA review meetings are being held in each council district as another means of educating citizens and attracting feedback. Warlick said attendance at those meetings has been fair, with 10 to 20 people showing up at each one since they began earlier this month.
"We've had a good mix," Warlick said. "There have been a lot of people who participated in the workshops, but there have been some who want to come out and learn about it, and that's exactly what (the meetings) are for."
The final two district meetings are both set for 6pm on Tuesday, Feb. 16. The District 5 meeting will be held at Nathan Hale High School at 6960 E. 21st St., while the District 9 meeting is scheduled for the Church of the Madalene at 3188 E. 22nd St.
If all goes well, Warlick said, the Planning Commission should vote on the plan in March. If commissioners approve it then, the plan would go to the City Council in April, which would hold another round of public hearings before beginning its deliberations. But Warlick emphasized that schedule is tentative.
"The TMAPC may deliberate for some time, just depending on what things bring," he said. "That's just natural. We're not going to be in a hurry to push it through after having worked on it for two years."
Warlick said anyone who isn't able to attend a review session or public hearing on the plan can still download the entire plan and provide feedback via the Web site at HYPERLINK "http://www.planitulsa.org"planitulsa.org. Warlick said public comments collected through the Web site would be forwarded to planning commissioners before they vote.
In the Single Digits
While Tulsa's long streak of monthly sales tax declines has continued, the period for last month did contain a silver lining for the city.
The preliminary report on sales tax collections issued by the state Tax Commission revealed that collections from mid-December to mid-January totaled more than $17.7 million, a 9.8 percent drop from the nearly $19.7 million collected for the same period a year ago.
That marks the 11th straight month of declines, the longest such period in the city's history.
But the 9.8 percent decrease marks the first time since August 2009 that the monthly reduction did not reach double figures, halting a streak of five straight months in which the declines reached 10 percent or more--perhaps a signal that the economic slowdown in Tulsa is starting to bottom out. The low point was the sales tax collections total for mid-October to mid-November, which was a 14.5 percent decline over the same period in 2009. The decline for mid-November to mid-December was less steep at 11.4 percent.
In the category of use taxes, which businesses and others pay on purchases of equipment from out-of-state vendors, the news was even better. The total collected was nearly $1.6 million--a decline of more than $135,000, or 7.8 percent, over the same period last year, but better than what city officials had estimated.
Still, Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. noted in a statement that the overall tax collections total was slightly less than what his office had forecast in its revised budget expectations. The portion of sales and use taxes that goes into the city's General Fund was $1.34 million for the month, a little less than $100,000 lower than revised budget expectations.
Put On Hold
A proposal to locate a new fine arts high school at a site northeast of downtown appears to have faded, leading a school organizer to begin pursuing other options.
David Downing, one of the founders of the Oklahoma School for the Visual and Performing Arts, said his request for the donation of the property at the south end of the Evan Fintube site along Archer Street has been stalled for several months as its owner, the Tulsa Development Authority, tries to resolve issues with the site relating to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requirements.
"That's essentially on life support," he said of his proposal before the TDA. "We've basically taken it off our list of properties, and that's gotten us looking at other site options. I guess it's still on the table, but it's way down on our list of options."
Downing said he and other supporters of the school are now considering a variety of sites in downtown Tulsa.
"We've got more locations to review than ever before," he said. "So it's going to take us longer to sift through them."
The school's creation was authorized last spring with the passage of House Bill 1737 by the Legislature and Gov. Brad Henry's signature. But funding for the project was not included in the bill.
Downing has said organizers will need to raise $20 million to $25 million to build the school, open it and create an endowment. The school would house 200 high school students from across the state studying dance, drama, music, painting, photography, writing, film, etc.
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