POSTED ON OCTOBER 24, 2007:
Seeking Inclusiveness at City Hall
Resolution approves river development as councilors request mayor keep them informed on any new projects
About a week after the fateful River Tax Election, the Tulsa City Council gave their collective thumbs up to two resolutions related to development along the Arkansas River, one approving development along its banks, the other disapproving a proposed privately operated toll bridge across it.
"The Council should send a message to the administration that we're not naysayers. We want to go forward with river development," said Tulsa City Councilor Jack Henderson last week during a City Council committee meeting.
Under discussion was the resolution proposed by Councilor Roscoe Turner, which was unanimously approved two days later, expressing the Council's support for development along the Arkansas River.
As most readers are doubtlessly aware, about a week before the resolution was proposed, Tulsa County voters turned down a countywide 4/10 cent sales tax to provide $282 million in funding for various publicly funded improvement projects along the river. Local philanthropists unconvincingly put up $117 million for other projects as incentive.
Resolution co-sponsors Turner, Henderson and Councilor John Eagleton were among the chief opponents of the proposed river tax, and so, they said, are typically mistaken as opponents of river development as well.
"The resolution is going to reach out across the divide created by the river tax," said Eagleton, who added that he wants to reverse that public misperception by having the Council go on-record voicing its collective support for Mayor Kathy Taylor's office's ongoing efforts to attract private developers.
While the resolution was under discussion, Turner took the opportunity to get up to speed on the latest river development developments.
"I get sick of people asking me about river development, asking about word they're hearing that somebody from Branson is coming," he said.
"I feel kind of left out when constituents come and ask me about stuff they'd heard about, and I haven't heard anything about it," Turner added.
Councilor Rick Westcott, who represents the city's 2nd District, through which the river runs, said he'd spoken with Patrick Cox, principal of HCW Development, the day after the election.
Cox and HCW Development built the Branson Landing development in Branson, Mo.
"He told me he's still very interested in coming here," Westcott apprised Turner and the others.
He said they're looking to develop along the west bank of the river, on land currently occupied by the Mid-Continent Concrete Company, which Westcott noted was looking to sell last year and likely still is.
Turner said the resolution should also encourage the Mayor to include the Council in discussions with developers.
"Everyone should remember what Roscoe always says: 'I work in City Hall, but I have to leave City Hall to find out what's going on in the city,'" he said.
"Maybe this time, we as a Council should be involved in the meetings and discussions," Councilor Bill Christiansen concurred.
Bridges of Tulsa County
Christiansen proposed another resolution, which also sought more involvement on the part of the city government on another aspect of river development.
His resolution, which was also unanimously approved by the Council, opposes the proposed privately financed bridge across the river, which would connect in south Tulsa at 121st and Yale Ave. and in Jenks at 131st and Yale Place.
(For the full story on the South Tulsa Bridge Saga, see last week's cover story, "Troubled Bridge" at www.urbantulsa.com.)
The Council unanimously passed a similar resolution in July 2005 in opposition to the efforts of Infrastructure Ventures, Inc. and the City of Jenks to build a privately operated toll bridge.
Christiansen told UTW that last week's is essentially an updated version of the same resolution, but includes reference to the lawsuit filed the previous week by Jenks Mayor Vic Vreeland against Mayor Taylor in an effort to compel her to sign an engineering services contract, which would the first step in the process for design work for the Tulsa-side of the bridge.
She's had the contract in her possession since April 26, and Vreeland accused her of "stalling" by not signing it.
The Mayor's office declined to comment on the lawsuit.
"As a rule, we don't normally comment on pending lawsuits," said Kim MacLeod, Taylor's spokeswoman.
Christiansen, though, said it's highly doubtful that the mayor of one municipality can legally compel the mayor of another to sign any kind of contract since, by nature, contracts are discretionary.
"Jenks has now filed a lawsuit to compel the City of Tulsa to allow Jenks to use Tulsa land in whatever manner Jenks desires, regardless of the City of Tulsa's wishes," reads the resolution, also stating, "the lawsuit filed by Jenks advocates bad public policy and ignores the right and discretionary ability of a municipality to determine how its property is best utilized in the public interest."
In recent months, Christiansen and Taylor have both publicly called for Jenks to agree to a publicly funded and operated toll bridge, the revenues of which would be split between the two cities in proportion to their populations.
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