Tulsa councilor speaks out against Vision2
BY ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
OKLAHOMA CITY — Tulsa City Councilor Blake Ewing spoke out against the Vision2 package Tuesday, saying the proposal was taking advantage of the potential loss of aviation industry jobs to fund a wide range of unrelated projects without sufficient public discussion.
Ewing is the first Tulsa City Council member to speak out against the proposal, which goes before voters Nov. 6. The $748.8 million initiative would extend the 0.6 percent Vision 2025 sales tax rate through 2029. Separate proposals would direct money to economic development improvements on key industrial sites at Tulsa International Airport and a closing fund and to quality-of-life improvements selected by Tulsa County and each of its cities.
“I think Vision 2 is poorly conceived,” he said. “I think we’re being asked to take people’s word on too many things.”
Ewing expressed his position during the International Council of Shopping Centers IdeaExchange, held Tuesday in the Renaissance Oklahoma City Convention Center. During a seminar on new retail concepts, a panel moderator asked Ewing to give his position on Vision 2.
Ewing said he believes that leaders have a genuine desire to improve the area but have not taken the time to ask what the residents want or to truly think about what the city should be.
“I feel the folks behind this are taking advantage of the possibility of Tulsa losing aerospace jobs, and are using that to include a lot of things that have nothing to do with airport jobs,” he said.
Ewing said he’s heard from constituents who have told him they feel the plan is too rushed, has too many unanswered questions and has left too little room for public discourse.
Of the proposed items in Vision2, Ewing said he agrees Tulsa International Airport has pressing needs that need to be addressed.
“I’ve toured the airport,” he said. “I know that some of the pressing needs are critical.”
However, he believes it is too soon to pass such a large package with so many different items.
“Because we’re doing this right now instead of later on, we’ll have a lot of bonding expense adding up.”
Ewing said he feels the airport’s needs should be addressed in a separate proposal.
As for the infrastructure of the city as a whole, Ewing said an extension of the Fix Our Streets program next year should bring in a significant amount of money and maintain the current level of street repair, and other items in Vision2 can be addressed as individual items.
Ewing said he isn’t against Vision2 as a knee-jerk reaction against any tax, as he feels PlaniTulsa and the original Vision 2025 were capital improvements done the right way.
However, he said an extension of Vision2 will lead to other tax increases in the future.
“When you lock in a county to a tax until 2029, that means any other capital needs that
arise between now and then will mean a tax increase,” he said.
Ewing said he plans to continue to participate in town hall meetings on the subject and wants to ensure the desires of the voters are included in the process.
“If the voters say they want this, I owe it to my constituents that our list of capital projects is as good as they could be,” he said.