It's definitely a county petition, but don't expect Tulsa County Commissioner John Smaligo to sign on.
Sheriff Stanley Glanz and Commissioner Karen Keith held a news conference Thursday, July 25, announcing an initiative petition to place a tax proposal on the November ballot.
Glanz and Keith want roughly $15 million a year in sales tax to fund a new juvenile justice building and expansion of the county jail, as well as a mental health unit to treat prisoners.
By gathering signatures, they hope to give county voters the option to approve a 0.167 cent sales tax increase.
They don't need to bother stopping by Smaligo's office.
"I will not be signing the petition, because it would raise taxes," Smaligo wrote in an email.
At one time, county residents did pay the extra 0.167 cent for every dollar spent. Glanz, county sheriff since 1989, said he tried unsuccessfully to keep county commissioners from letting the tax expire.
It expired for county residents outside of Tulsa in Sept. 2011, but city voters in 2008 approved a Tulsa-only 0.167 sales tax proposal.
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Now, the city is asking Tulsa residents to renew that tax, set to expire next year, while Glanz is hoping voters will choose to fund jail improvements and a new juvenile center.
Glanz said in an interview that the cost of a new juvenile facility would be about $40 to $50 million. Inside the current building, cramped court rooms and waiting areas are obvious shortcomings. Intake counselors visit with youthful offenders and their families in tiny offices, roughly eight feet wide and maybe seven feet from the back wall to the door. Glanz said the building has "been a disaster for several years."
For the jail, the money would fund about 360 additional beds. Several news reports have come out in recent months detailing the cramped conditions, and Glanz has filed a lawsuit asking the state to act more quickly in transferring inmates to prison.
He described how having a mental health unit could help law enforcement avoid the time and cost of transporting those with a mental health emergency far away from Tulsa, as the law currently requires.
"Right now, if the police get involved in a mental health issue and there's no beds available in Tulsa, we have to transport that person as far away as Oklahoma City," Glanz said.
It's also needed to help local inmates, Glanz said. Of the two or three jail deaths in recent years, Glanz said mental illness has played a role.
"We need to put some resources in the jail to help deal with the mentally ill," Glanz said, adding that "a third of my population is on psychotropic drugs for mental disease." Glanz said local jails in Florida have begun to establish mental health units, calling the practice increasingly common.
The county needs almost 18,000 signatures by Sept. 10 for the petition to result in a ballot proposal, Glanz said.
"I've asked all my employees, we have 600 employees at the sheriff's office, take two petitions and bring about 40 signatures," Glanz said. He said petition supporters will also be active at various public gatherings trying to collect signatures.
Bob Fleischman stuck around until the end of the July 25 Tulsa City Council meeting, hoping to update councilors on where exactly a group of Brady Arts District business owners stood on the issue of renaming Brady Street.
But after the council put an item on the agenda as the first reading of a possible ordinance change renaming Brady Street, they decided to formally notify property owners before taking further action.
The issue was first raised by a group of Tulsa residents who want the city to rename areas named after Tate Brady, a city founder, but someone also linked to the Ku Klux Klan. Recently, some have pointed to evidence suggesting he may have participated in the 1921 Tulsa race riot in which approximately 300 were killed.
Councilors had expressed a desire to have a task force study the idea -- statements noted by Fleischman, in an interview after the meeting.
"The councilors had changed their call for a task force to be a city ordinance with no input or discussion from the community," said Fleischman, president of the Brady Arts District Business Association. He declined to say whether the group supports or opposes a name change, but said the group will have a statement soon.
Several others at the meeting also did not get a chance to share their opinion about the issue. The proposed ordinance comes after a separate Brady group, the Brady Arts District Owners Association, sent a letter dated July 14 expressing a desire to keep the Brady name for the district. Regarding a change to the street name, the owners group wrote that such an initiative "is not within the jurisdiction or legal parameters of the Brady Arts District Owners Association."
Councilor Jack Henderson proposed the agenda item, suggesting a name change from Brady to Burlington, based on the finding of some old city documents suggesting the name Burlington was once at least considered for the street name.
Pearl talk postponed.
Talk about changing development guidelines for the Pearl District has been postponed to later this month.
A July 24 work session agenda for the Tulsa Metro Area Planning Commission included talk about proposed amendments to the 6th Street Infill Plan.
Planning guidelines that would affect property owners have led to a split in the neighborhood just east of downtown. The proposed amendments come from a recently-formed group known as the Pearl District Business and Property Owners Association.
Among the proposed amendments, the group wants greater emphasis on industrial businesses in the neighborhood. In a letter to the planning commission, the group noted that many organization members would be unable to attend the July meeting.
The group was formed in response to an effort to expand zoning that restricts some parking lots and regulates new building and redevelopment by emphasizing pedestrian-friendly designs.
Susan Miller, director of land development services for the Indian Nations Council of Governments, which offers support to the planning commission, said the work session is now planned for Aug. 21.
She noted that an expert on some of the ideas presented in the proposed expanded zoning for the Pearl will speak to the commission on Aug. 7.
Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, until recently dean of the architecture school at the University of Miami in Florida, has been involved with the planning of a Lake Eufaula community known as Carlton Landing.
After barely two months on the job, Cheryl Waldeck is no longer executive director of Up With Trees.
"We have parted ways with Cheryl Waldeck. The decision was mutual," wrote Michael Patton, the nonprofit board's vice president, in a July 25 email.
Waldeck took over the top spot on May 6, after a career that has included stops with the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in Tulsa as well as the Fit Kids Coalition.
Just days before her departure, Waldeck spoke to Urban Tulsa Weekly about planned future initiatives for the nonprofit, including more youth programs.
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