River questions muddy waters of decision

By Staff Report    
Monday, 08 October 2007
As Mayor Kathy Taylor said, “Tulsa’s history began with the river, and our future depends on it.”

It’s a fact that the city’s history began at the river, but opponents of the river development proposal – which Tulsa County voters will decide Tuesday, Oct. 9 – don’t seem to think Tulsa’s future is worth a half-penny.  Some are simply against any taxes, any time, while others simply aren’t well informed.

Below, Tulsa Today highlights some critical information – and sheds light on some misinformation – on the issue on the table.

Mistake of Fact #1  My part of Tulsa County won’t be helped by developing the Arkansas River.

Answer:  All economy is regional.  Money flows irrespective of political boundaries.  On any given day; people from Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, and throughout Oklahoma visit Tulsa for business, shopping and entertainment.  They bring money.  They spend money and benefit the economy and each individual within the community.  For more:  Read the Arizona State University analysis of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area by clicking here, or review the Regional Science Association material by clicking here.

Mistake of Fact #2  Private developers should build river infrastructure.

Answer:  Only local governmental authority can gain the environmental permits necessary to repair and restore the Arkansas River.  Government typically builds infrastructure that allows private business to flourish – in this case, much like a highway, private development will occur on both sides of the Arkansas River once there is water in the river.

Mistake of Fact #3  Vision 2025 paid for dams, and that program has overage enough to build all that is needed.

Answer:  “Vision 2025” has money for Arkansas River restoration, but it was always intended that Federal money would match this local grant.  Further money is also available in Tulsa County’s “4-to-Fix” program and the City of Tulsa’s “3rd Penny” program.  Regardless, it is not enough.  The “overage” that critics asserted for a time was proven to be a $200 million mistake made by those same critics – see Myths of river money (August 12) by clicking here.

Mistake of Fact #4  Sales taxes should not be used by Tulsa County for infrastructure development.

Answer:  The alternative is property taxes that would be much more onerous upon Tulsa residents.  Over 20 percent of sales taxes are paid by visitors; thus, the tax will be smaller when spread over a larger number of people, many who work in Tulsa, but live outside the County.  This 0.4 tax equates to a dime a day – even bums have that.  There is also a low-income and senior rebate for those who qualify that equals the amount they are anticipated to pay annually.
Mistake of Fact #5  They should fix the streets first.

Answer:  This is a Tulsa County – not City of Tulsa — proposal that will grow the economy by providing resources to each municipality to enable more street repair in that area.  Each city should prioritize streets, but river development and restoration is a substantial infrastructure improvement no city could do on its own.  Tulsa County roads are in great shape, but if you don’t like the way your city street rides – call your city’s mayor.

Mistake of Fact #6  It’s not clear what this proposal is actually for.

Answer:  A “yes” vote on this issue will help build new low-water dams at Sand Springs and Jenks and repair the one at 31st Street and Riverside.  The three dams will work together to maintain three lakes and keep water in the river year-round.  Although there is water in the river daily as Keystone dam generates electricity, it doesn’t reach Tulsa until about 10 p.m. before disappearing by about 3 am – the dams will pool that water and release it gradually over the daylight hours.  This proposal will restore a living river system in Tulsa.

Mistake of Fact #7  The Arkansas River stinks!

Answer:  Part of that smell is because water spreads out between sandbars, gets trapped and becomes stagnant.  This proposal will channel that water between lakes so that it keeps moving – which will reduce the bad odor.

Mistake of Fact #8  What about the refinery smell?

Answer:  The refineries have announced that they plan to implement significant improvements to beautify their areas and reduce odor.  That work is currently under way.

Mistake of Fact #9  There is nothing in this proposal for me!

Answer:  Tulsa is land-locked and surrounded by other municipalities.  Our only choice to grow as a city is to develop areas that have long been ignored.  With this infrastructure effort, the river will become attractive to developers – and they, in turn, will attract private businesses that will grow the economy and generate revenue for the City of Tulsa that will help keep your taxes low.  That will help everyone.

Mistake of Fact #10  Should the County do this – why not let each city do their own?

Answer:  The U.S. Corps of Engineers is working as a full partner with Tulsa County.  They report that the odds are much better of receiving the $50 million Federal funding authorized for the Arkansas River if there is one local entity coordinating multiple municipalities.  This is a fulfillment of the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan to restore the river throughout Tulsa County.

Mistake of Fact #11  If there is Federal money available, why approve this tax?

Answer:  All Federal money requires local matching funds for major projects.  Some money has been set aside in Vision 2025 and 4-to-Fix the County to help, but the work on the river can be done now and, when received, the Federal money will end the tax early.

Mistake of Fact #12  Is this that “Channels Plan” to build apartments in the middle of the river?

Answer:  No – that was a private plan.  This is a part of the Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan developed over four years by an advisory group of over 30 organizations committed to the environmentally proper growth and development of Tulsa County natural resources.  More than 60 public meetings were held and this, more than any other proposal in history, is the people’s plan.

Need more information?  Feel free to call the “Make Our River Happen” office at 749-7483, or check their Web site at www.OurRiverYes.com.  Other sources include the newspaper Web site at www.TulsaWorld.com.  To see video click here.
As University of Oklahoma President David Boren said recently, Arkansas River development in Tulsa will benefit the state’s economy by creating “the kind of communities that will become homes of choice … I can see the river and the parks along the river becoming to Tulsa what Central Park has become to New York City.”

Enjoy previously posted stories on Arkansas River Development.

Tulsa can recover the Arkansas River (June 25)

Myths of river money (August 12)

Tulsa senator thinks river tax is all wet (September 6)

Conservatives should support river infrastructure (September 17)

Congressman Sullivan supports river restoration (September 21)

There are also two pieces in the Editorial Section that mention the River issue as part of other issues.

Rifting Tulsa this and river that (August 20)

Tulsa politics and propriety in punditry (September 24)

Last Updated ( Monday, 08 October 2007 )