Conservatives should support river infrastructure

By David Arnett, Publisher    
Monday, 17 September 2007
Editorial Analysis:  As tax limits liberty and money is more powerful in individual pockets than when seized by government; conservatives typically oppose tax increases with the exceptions of national defense and infrastructure   Thus, Tulsa County conservatives should support the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan as the most compelling infrastructure springboard ever considered for the metropolis of Tulsa.

The package voters could approve October 9 is a “bricks & mortar” list of physical improvements creating a living river system, the first major improvements we could see in three years.  It is a realistic fundamental package that makes viable, for the first time in history, land and water in the center of Tulsa County for multiple public and private development throughout several cities.
The plan evolved from over 60 public meetings and four years of study by professionals from multiple disciplines.  As all economy is regional, the benefits of river development will cascade throughout northeastern Oklahoma.  River development has profited the people of every community that has ever undertaken the task, so it boils down to the question:  Do you want the Arkansas River developed or not?

Opponents of the funding package agree the plan is good – they just don’t want to pay for it, but is less than 10 cents a day too much a burden to fix the Arkansas River in Tulsa County?  The tax also includes a “senior rebate” and a “low-income rebate.”  It will add money to schools and multi-municipalities as previously unusable land becomes productive and desirable.  Once the projects listed are built, the tax will end.
Tulsa County officials have thoroughly investigated alternative methods of financing and this 0.4 of one penny for seven years or less is the best option as it provides the largest base.  Should Federal matching funds be received ($50 million is under consideration) or revenue exceed the amount needed, the tax will end early.  In addition to the public funds, over $117 million in private donations are guaranteed from local donors to add to the package.  Private development by the billions is expected from multiple developers as land becomes available.

It is government’s job to provide public infrastructure so private development can build projects to grow a robust economy.  Just like a main street or highway, the 42 miles of the Arkansas River in Tulsa County provides opportunity for growth.

Hiding behind the “No-Tax-Never” crowd, a few officials including the Mayor Wade McCaleb of Broken Arrow and Oklahoma Senator Randy Brogdon have admitted they favor tax packages for their respective provincial preferences while criticizing the river plan as “not enough butter on their bread.”

Less honorable critics have tried to confuse the issue by claiming the City of Tulsa is incompetent or inattentive to street repair so this Tulsa County package should not be approved.  Tulsa County roads are maintained at a much higher level than city streets.  Confusing levels of government is not new, but evil as the Bible says, “God is not the author of confusion — ironic in that the most politically self-righteous are most culpable of the tactic.

Regardless, the City of Tulsa is landlocked.  Had Tulsa followed Oklahoma City’s example and annexed every cow pasture of additional land within reach, we would have a larger base from which to grow.  Even within the last few years, the Tulsa City Council failed to annex the Tulsa exit of the Turner Turnpike.

The point on river restoration and development is that this is a “bricks and mortar” package that will build specific infrastructure and make previously undesirable land and water in the center of our metropolis viable for development in multiple municipalities.  So again and to the bottom line of all debate on this proposition before the people October 9, do you want the 42 mile Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan as developed over 4 years and 60 public meetings to be built?

Leading up to that October 9 vote, Tulsa Today will answer reader questions.  If you have a question, please write using our “contact” form or e-mail direct to

Reader E-Mail:
Jack Pauling wrote: Let the citizens truly decide.  In October, put the bond issue for streets on the same ballot with the river development.  Then the people can decide. As it is, we get the river tax now and won’t even hear about the bond election for streets until next year.  By then, citizens will be so "taxed" with Vision 2025 and the river that they will surely turn down another self tax.  Not because our roads don’t need fixing, we just won’t be able to afford them.

Tulsa Today:  As was written above, the street issue is a City of Tulsa issue and river development is a Tulsa County issue.  There are many questions about how the City of Tulsa spends an annual $560 million operating budget – to say nothing of their capital improvement budget.  Vision 2025 was a specific infrastructure package that has been operated transparently and properly as the specific propositions approved by voters directed.  Tulsa County’s annual $60 million operating budget is considered by many to be a bargain for the number and range of services provided.

Glenda wrote:  How many bridges in Tulsa County would 1/2 cent tax increase fix in 5 yrs?  Would bridge re-construction help everyone in the county that is to pay?  Would being updated on bridges and making safe driving across our county be a attraction?

Tulsa Today:  Again, Tulsa County bridges receive inspection and repair as needed.  That effort also involves the State of Oklahoma and, as a state issue, deserves and is receiving increasing attention.

Glenda continued:  Isn’t this tax in part to be used to make new bridges to only a selected travel for selected income?

Tulsa Today:  No.

Glenda continued:  Do we not have other parks to visit and don’t we now have such wildlife living on the banks that we don’t need to disturb?  Could we not use this as a true attraction that people will drive to Tulsa to spend 2 or 3 days to visit our city?

Tulsa Today:  Yes, there are other parks and many reasons to visit Tulsa and Northeast Oklahoma.  The Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan will enhance and restore habitat.  Currently many parts of the river are inaccessible and, in come cases, dangerous to visit.  This plan will address those issues and provide more public access and private development.  That development will draw people (visitors and locals) and sales tax money gathered at those locations will go to the municipalities which can then be spent on enhanced public services as local officials direct.

Glenda continued:  The Vision 2025 was perfect and suits everyone, this will have people coming in now we need the other 2 nights of travel for these people to stay.  Going to a middle of a River I don’t believe will, unless it has great attractions people will come with 1 yr olds and up and spend time and money in Tulsa.

Tulsa Today:  Family with young children enjoy areas provided now and that usage will increase as more public and private areas are built.  There is no building in the middle of the river proposed in this plan.  There are pedestrian bridges across the river and public use areas on both sides.

Glenda continued:  I don’t like seeing kids used in the advertising for this PROJECT.  This is not a kid issue that they can comprehend and have a concept of money and long term.  A 3 or 4 yr old will only repeat not comprehend.

Tulsa Today:  We understand that the young people shown are older than you suggest.  The commercials promoting the river are produced by the Our River Yes group and seek to convey what is for many the most compelling reason for river development – for the next generation of Tulsans to enjoy with pride as they grow.

For more information, click here for an overview of river development, click here for the entire Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan, click here for River Parks, click here for a previous story on funding options, click here for an interview with river critic Oklahoma Senator Randy Brogdon, click here for the river opposition site, and click here for the Our River Yes site.
Last Updated ( Thursday, 20 September 2007 )