Resolution against new Creek land bid at hand
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
7/22/09 at 4:27 AM
Tulsa's City Council will vote next week on a resolution that opposes two parcels of Arkansas River bank land's being granted American Indian sovereignty because of the negative affect it would have on tax revenue.
Councilor Bill Christiansen said Tuesday that he will hand-deliver the resolution, if approved by the council July 30, to the regional office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Muskogee.
"This situation is a real threat to the city's finances," he said during the council's committee meetings.
A resolution is no more than the council formally stating its opinion on an issue, but that is what members of Oklahoma's congressional delegation have advised the council to do.
Mayor Kathy Taylor has already written letters to the BIA office opposing sovereignty status for the land.
The discussion was sparked by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation's efforts to have two parcels of land on the west and east side of the river given federal trust status.
This would exempt them from sales and property taxes.
The 25-acre piece on the west side is targeted by the tribe for a shopping area; the smaller parcel on the east side is used for parking across the street from the tribe's newly opened River Spirit Casino.
Christiansen said the council must take a stand on these parcels before other tribes in the area start doing the same thing.
"Fast-forward 10 years, when there's water in the river, and this is prime commercial land," he said.
"We need to protect that revenue for the city."
Councilor Rick Westcott said the tribe's plans could force the city to pay for millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements and would cannibalize the tax revenue the city collects from other shopping areas.
"We really can't afford that," he said.
Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief A.D. Ellis has said previously that he understands why the city is trying to protects its interests but that he is protecting the tribe's interests.
Last week, a U.S. senator and a representative from New York announced that they are introducing legislation that would ensure that municipalities, counties and school districts are re- imbursed for property taxes lost if American Indian land within their borders is granted federal trust status.
As proposed, the payments would come from the Department of the Interior, which oversees the BIA. Nothing has been suggested regarding the lost sales-tax revenue.
Brian Barber 581-8322