POSTED ON AUGUST 15, 2012:
Tax Package Topping $740 Million Headed to Voters. Vision2 seems to be the official name of the sales tax renewal package headed to voters this November, a no doubt cinematically-inspired title for a sequel to 2003's Vision 2025.
Voters will have the option to extend the six-tenths of a cent sales tax hike -- set to expire on Jan. 1, 2017 -- for another 13 years, through 2029.
Proponents clearly oppose Roman numerals, but face a challenge in explaining to voters how and why public funds should be spent.
In a post-recession economy, backers have emphasized their view that a legion of improvements to airport industrial facilities must be done to keep and attract business prospects. In the proposal, such improvements are designated to be funded with up to $254 million in sales tax money.
"Outdated publicly-owned facilities are hindering Tulsa's potential to compete for jobs in the aerospace and manufacturing industries," notes a one-page document from proponents outlining the case to voters.
It continues: "We have a strong workforce in the aerospace industry. Without the facilities to match, we run the risk of losing jobs and workers to other cities."
Backers are loathe to tie the proposal directly to American Airlines, which continues to battle through bankruptcy and has recently signed an agreement with worker unions that may keep Tulsa job losses in the hundreds, rather than in the thousands. The company at one time stated they expected more than 2,000 layoffs in Tulsa.
Voters agreeing to re-up the tax would also be creating an approximately $50 million fund that would more generally "fund land, buildings, infrastructure and other capital improvements for the purpose of promoting economic development."
These projects make up a little more than half of the six-tenths sales tax increase. Remaining funds -- a total of about $361.9 million, according to proposal proponents -- would be used for capital improvements.
To keep with the cinematic theme, this proposal lacks the lengthy prequel prior to the 2003 election. Individual communities will come up with their own list of capital improvement projects, but less than three months before the Nov. 6 election date, only the county has released a proposed list of projects worthy of public funds.
Tulsa would receive about 44 percent of funds and the county would get about 29 percent of these funds. The only other city receiving more than a double-digit share of the public money would be Broken Arrow, which would receive about 12 percent of the money.
Mixed-income Apartments Rising in Kendall-Whittier. The 128 mixed-income housing units under construction in the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood represent "much more than a deal" to Richard Baron, the St. Louis-based developer working on the Kendall-Whittier West Park housing development.
Baron spoke Aug. 7 to a crowd of community leaders including Mayor Dewey Bartlett. The group gathered at a park site across the street from the construction project. Along with the housing, the park will be getting a major revamp in the effort described by Baron -- co-founder of development firm McCormack Baron Salazar -- as a true partnership that can work elsewhere in Tulsa.
"My hope is, as the mayor said, that this will be a prototype for many other communities in Tulsa," said Baron, referring to a short talk from Bartlett given that day. "Doing these kinds of projects is important in terms of the immediate neighborhood. But much more important for me is the opportunity to teach and to explain and to work through issues with members of the city, the public sector and the private, and private citizens, to really form the kind of partnership that we have here today."
Baron credited Steven Dow, executive director of the nonprofit Community Action Project of Tulsa County, with encouraging him to consider Tulsa for a project. Baron's development firm describes itself as "the nation's leading for-profit developer of economically integrated urban neighborhoods."
The George Kaiser Family Foundation and the University of Tulsa are major partners in the project, located near East 5th Place and South Lewis Avenue. TU will own a building devoted to 20 units of housing for graduate students, which will also feature retail space.
The foundation is paying for renovations to the park that will include revamped soccer fields, as well as other design flourishes from Tulsa landscape architecture firm Howell & Vancuren, based barely a block away from the site. Notably, TU will provide for upkeep to the park.
In an interview after the official start-of-construction event, Baron said the first units may be available in the spring.
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