Councilor: Vision2 is poorly conceived
BY ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
8/29/12 at 7:05 AM
Read more about the proposal and the status of Vision 2025 projects.
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 Vision2 is poorly conceived," Ewing 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 Vision2.
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."
As for the infrastructure of the entire city, 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 future tax increases.
"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.
"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.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett said he disagreed with Ewing's assertion that the process has been rushed, noting that projects such as completing the Gilcrease Expressway and developing the Arkansas River have been discussed by community leaders and citizens for decades.
Bartlett told the Tulsa World that the city has drawn its ideas for projects from public formats such as the citizens survey, PlaniTulsa, City Hall In Your Neighborhood meetings, the shared goals of the City Council and mayor as well as this year's EnVision Summit.
"All these things involved thousands of people, a large number of public meetings as well as the collective judgment and wisdom of the elected officials that were elected by the entirety of our city," Bartlett said.
Don Walker, Vision2 co-chairman, said there has been a good deal of opportunity for public input into the plan.
"I know that a lot of municipalities not only have plans, but have made a number of public input opportunities as a part of the planning process. PlaniTulsa is one that comes to mind immediately. Vision2 provides a funding mechanism to make parts of those plans a reality," Walker said.
The city of Tulsa started a series of meetings Monday night to discuss how to best use $157.9 million in the quality-of-life money projected to the city, he said.
"Before the voters go to the polls to vote on Vision2, I believe there will be clarity on what will be voted on as a result of this process," Walker said.
"The timing of this is based on our immediate need as a community in the area of keeping and attracting jobs and I feel like it's the best opportunity to also make a commitment as a community to continue to invest in ourselves with quality of life project," he said.
World Staff Writer Kevin Canfield and Senior Writer Wayne Greene contributed to this story.
Original Print Headline: Councilor: Vision2 is poorly conceived
Robert Evatt 918-581-8447
Blake Ewing: He is the first Tulsa City Council member to speak out against the proposal, which goes before voters Nov. 6
Mayor Dewey Bartlett: "All these things involved thousands of people, a large number of public meetings as well as the collective judgment and wisdom of the elected officials that were elected by the entirety of our city."