POSTED ON APRIL 4, 2012:
Love Letters, hate mail
Hold Your Fire
Et tu, Ray? Having read the article by Ray Pearcey in the March 22-28 edition of Urban Tulsa ("The Vital Nexus") and knowing it has been a while since he worked at City Hall, I think it is important to put into perspective what the City's capital improvements funding process has accomplished since the late 1970s. All of the projects have been deeply informed by the comprehensive plan. In fact, TMAPC's state enabling legislation requires that body declare the City's capital projects in accordance with the comprehensive plan before being funded. So make no mistake about it, the elected officials, including the last nine mayors, have been implementing the plans.
Thirty years is a long time. So borrowing the parlance of bridge - let's review the bidding. Since the passage of the first third penny sales tax in October of 1980, over $3 billion has been approved for capital improvements. Where has that money gone and was it spent on implementing the comprehensive plan?
Flood Control - nearly $400 million in federal and local dollars have built facilities that virtually eliminate major damage and loss of life during 100 year flood events - a magnificent accomplishment given the disastrous floods in the 1970s and 1980s. All the projects were built in accordance with adopted master drainage plans which are a subset of the comprehensive plan.
Sanitary Sewers - Over $500 million spent to eliminate overflows of raw sewage into homes, yards, businesses, and local rivers and streams as well as upgrade treatment plants so discharges do not harm aquatic life in the river and Bird Creek. Many of the projects were mandated by federal and state regulatory agencies and all were in conformance with adopted utility board plans incorporated into the Comprehensive plan.
Streets - Over a $1.5 billion in new construction and maintenance of the City's street system - All projects were built to specifications outlined in the TMAPC/City adopted major Street and Highway plan.
Trails - Over $20 million spent to build the fabulous regional trail system along the river, creeks and abandoned railroads - all in conformance with TMPAC adopted regional trail plan.
Downtown - Over $500 million has been spent on the BOK Center, expansion of the Convention Center, three parking garages and a ball park - all in conformance with the adopted comprehensive plan. Also millions more public dollars have been used to directly subsidize downtown housing - the number one goal of the groups representing downtown interests for over 25 years.
Parks - Nearly $200 million spent on parks, the zoo and golf courses - all in accordance with adopted Park and Recreational plans.
Public Safety - over $200 million spent on police and fire stations, police and fire training facilities and equipment. Public safety is a key component of any comprehensive plan.
Transit - $15 million has been allocated for transit facilities and equipment - most providing a 20 percent match for federal funds.
Airports and highways - Over the last 30 years, billions in state and federal monies have been spent in the Tulsa area on the regional highways and the airport. These improvements have been made in accordance with locally adopted transportation plans.
Year after year and administration after administration, the City has stuck to its knitting - providing basic and not so basic infrastructure and economic development projects - all in conformance with TMAPC and Mayor/City Council adopted plans.
Mayor Bartlett is now reviewing capital requests as part of the annual budget/CIP process with an eye on a future proposal. He has wisely included Planning Director Dawn Warwick on the review team. The group is considering all of the City's plans, including PlaniTulsa and the more recently adopted Complete Streets concept, in its deliberations - no "auto pilot" involved. Instead of criticizing a proposal before it is even crafted and vetted in public forums, I would advise everyone to take a deep breath, hold your fire and judge it by its actual contents. Also remember PlaniTulsa was written based on a 25 year time horizon and there will be four or five major capital programs proposed in that time frame. All will provide an opportunity to implement PlaniTulsa. I will end as I began with a reference to ancient Rome - it was not built in a day. Patience and perseverance are needed in the long slog to make Tulsa a better place.
-Pat Connell, Budget and Planning Division Manager at City of Tulsa
There are a lot of people who are for, not just the "Pearl District Plan" per se, but who are really wanting Tulsa to be able to create good quality urban areas containing good urban development ("Neighborhood Davids vs. Goliath Corporation," March 15-21). The new comprehensive plan and the thousands who participated in that process showed that. I am sure the TYPros are one group that are pro "Form Based Codes" which is what the Pearl District Plan is based on, and Tulsa Now is another organization that I am sure is for good urban redevelopment and the Form Based Codes in the Pearl District. We have great car oriented suburban neighborhoods in and around Tulsa, but are very non-competitive as a city when it comes to being able to offer good urban living lifestyle choices. I would think that everyone would agree, no matter what you personally may want, that Tulsa being able to offer both superb suburban and superb urban living is important to our city and its future. If areas like downtown and the Pearl District are not the areas where we are going to create good urban, pedestrian friendly living... then in what areas will we?
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