Creek chief questions city's ethics in land deal
BY CLIFTON ADCOCK World Staff Writer
Friday, August 21, 2009
8/21/09 at 3:48 AM
Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief A.D. Ellis accused the city of Tulsa of hypocrisy Thursday for its efforts to stop the tribe from putting land in trust while the city owns land in Delaware County tax-free.
Land designated as a tribal trust is exempt from sales and property taxes.
At a press conference, Ellis also said he believes that the city wants to stop land on both sides of the Arkansas River from being put into trust because of the tribe's plans to build a bridge across the river between Tulsa and Jenks.
The application process to put the land for a bridge near 121st Street and Yale Avenue in trust began this week, Ellis said.
The application is likely to be submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs within three months.
The trust process usually takes years to complete, and construction probably would not begin for six or seven years, he said.
Ellis, seated next to Delaware County resident and activist Michael Sperry, said the city and county would receive more than what would be lost in tax revenue as a result of economic development on the land.
In July, two Tulsa County commissioners sent letters to the BIA opposing the tribe's application to put land on the east side of the river into trust.
Tulsa's City Council also passed a resolution opposing the tribe's putting the land in trust.
In a letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor said that in addition to losing tax revenue, the city would be forced to pay millions of dollars to build infrastructure if the property were developed.
She also noted that the land is in a flood zone.
On Thursday, Ellis pointed to the Tulsa-owned land around Lake Eucha, from which the city draws water.
"Although they're objecting to us putting 40 acres in trust here, we found out the city of Tulsa owns approximately 12,000 acres in Delaware and Mayes counties, and it's tax-exempt," Ellis said.
"The whole county's been affected, because this amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars Tulsa has not paid, yet they do not want us to put 40 acres in trust. It's hypocritical to take the issue the city of Tulsa has taken."
Kim MacLeod, a spokeswoman for Taylor, said the city had no comment other than the arguments it laid out in its letter to the BIA.
The property on the east side of the river, near the tribe's massive new River Spirit Casino, is to be used for employee parking.
Sperry said Tulsa-owned land at Lake Eucha hasn't resulted in improved water quality.
"The city of Tulsa cannot buy enough land in Delaware County to protect Lake Eucha and Lake Spavinaw, but they can bankrupt the county," he said, adding that the property would make up about 20 percent of the county's property tax base.
The city of Jenks had tried to build a bridge over the Arkansas River a few years ago but was met with fierce resistance from Tulsa residents and city officials.
Clifton Adcock 581-8462
Principal Chief A.D. Ellis: He said the city wants to stop the land trust because the tribe plans a bridge between Tulsa and Jenks.