POSTED ON JULY 25, 2007:
Embrace the River
And if you want me, I'll be down at the river with my laptop
The Tulsa region has never been known as a "What's in it for me?" place to live. At various points in our history every city and town has come together for the common good of all of us. When we needed an international airport, we came together. When we needed to keep American Airlines we came together, even though most of us don't work for the airlines. When we needed a new jail we came together, even though most of us don't have an incarcerated family member.
We passed Vision 2025 that has provided or will provide improvements all over our region. School bond issues, United Way, numerous religious and ethnic celebrations have all succeeded due to a unity of common purpose. We are not selfish people. We see beyond ourselves and are willing to work for the betterment of our town, our city and our county. We see beyond politics, self-ambition, and those who seek to have their moment in the sun at the expenses of what's good for our future.
The river belongs to all of us. And there's something about water that attracts everyone. Whether it comes from the security and peace we felt in our mother's womb or the religious significance in the forty-two times water is mentioned in the bible, we are all drawn to the serenity and calmness of water. For all who have gone to Jenk's fabulous river front, or Bricktown in Oklahoma City or any other river development, we don't venture to these places just because of particular restaurants or stores. That unmatched mixture of excitement, calmness and beauty is what prompts us to load up the family and make a day or even a weekend trip.
We have five cities with river frontage: Sand Springs, Tulsa, Jenks, Bixby, and Broken Arrow. In the river development plan each of these cities have exciting projects that residents of those communities and visitors alike will enjoy.
There will be those who don't believe that what's good in one town is good for those who don't live there. Who believes that all of the people who fill up Jenk's Riverwalk every night of the week actually live in Jenks? Where do all those people come from? They come from all over. And so it will be with the river development proposal that has been put together by the citizens who live in Sand Springs, Tulsa, Jenks, Bixby, and Broken Arrow. People who live all over Tulsa County and all who visit from outside of our region will be attracted to what we are about to accomplish. And who will benefit? We all will.
It's no accident that Jenks has recently been ranked 43rd in the Country's 100 Best Places to Live by Money Magazine. The Riverwalk has brought national prominence and greater sales tax to improve city services. And it's certain to attract new companies to our region.
There is a common theme in the river development proposal for each city. It's the economic and commercial development component. The plan provides an opportunity for each city to create their own area for economic growth that is a unique fit to that particular community. River front property development will bring new jobs, new business and new neighbors. The value of these projects is not just about what it costs the taxpayers to create these improvements but what each city will receive as each project comes on line. The answer is sales tax back into the coffers of the local city government so they can provide and improve basic government services. Sales tax revenues hire policemen and firemen, fund road repairs and improve parks. And the property taxes on the river front development will help our schools.
Early economic projections show the City of Tulsa should receive new sales taxes of $3.3 million in 2009 with that number increasing annually over $8 million in 2014. That's new revenue to fund city services. And Sand Springs, Jenks, Bixby, and Broken Arrow will likewise see new revenue in their cities for their city operations as a result of this economic development. As much as developing the river is about attractions, the greatest reason for embarking on this venture is how it will benefit each of us by how it helps all cities.
We all know about other ventures we have embarked upon in the past with the belief it will help each community in Tulsa County. Securing American Airlines place in our community and the building of the region's arena and athletic venues are often mentioned as regional economic development engines. But businesses can be bought or moved or go bankrupt and arena's may have periods of slow activities or failures. But no where in this country has a developed river ever failed to live up to its promise. The record of river development success is as long as the river itself. They work. They do not fail.
What's in it for each of you? The same thing that's in it for each of us. A better future.
Terry Simonson is Chief Deputy for District 2 County Commissioner Randi Miller.
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