The wrong plan at the wrong time
BY BILL LEIGHTY
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Related Story: It will keep Tulsa moving forward
Vision2 is the most poorly conceived
and strategically deficient tax proposal in
memory, a desperately short-sighted and
reactionary response to a problem whose
solution has yet to be determined.
Proposition 1 includes $386 million in
airport industrial complex improvements,
a closing fund and $80 million in bond
costs, all with no strings attached. There is
absolutely no compelling evidence of any
urgency to approve this kind of spending
now, without any predictable or guaranteed
return on investment.
American Airlines has repeatedly made
it clear that infrastructure improvements
will not guarantee anything in regards to its
AA has an enormous investment and
thousands of skilled workers in Tulsa. It is
highly unlikely that it will just pull up shop
and clear out in the next 24 to 36 months. If
we lose additional maintenance jobs, it will
be due to the financial pressure to outsource
maintenance work overseas, not some other
American city outbidding us.
Adding to the question marks in Proposition
1 are the sweetheart lease terms where
present airport tenants pay only $1 per year
for hundreds of thousands of square feet of
space. However, the leases do place responsibility
for maintenance and repairs on the
lessees, so why should we consider investing
hundreds of millions of dollars more in
those aging facilities?
We need a bolder strategy that provides
a more imaginary, a more visionary and a
more sustainable aviation and aerospace
future. Any new plan for the development
of our aviation and aerospace industries
should focus more on the emerging new
technologies and related educational and research
opportunities like commercial space
exploration and less on the nuts and bolts
ethos of the past.
Responsible economic development
should be a policy intervention that aims to
improve the economic and social well-being
of our community and its citizens. It ought
to be more about social justice and social
equity than corporate giveaways and incentives.
We need to maintain our moral compass
and say no to the idea of a closing fund. Let’s
compete with an attractive quality of life
offer, not pursue hopeless bidding wars for
companies that will be out the door the first
time another community comes along with
a better offer, which they will.
While Vision2 proponents have failed
to make any convincing argument for the
urgency of approving the economic development
proposal, they have not even tried to
defend the ill-timed quality-of-life components
in Proposition 2.
The next tax package we should be considering
is the extension of the third penny
and “Fix Our Streets,” which is set to expire
in June 2014, not the Vision 2025 extension,
which expires in 2017. The city of Tulsa is
currently sitting on an unfunded capital
improvement wish list in the range of $7
The public should be provided with
a broad overview of all potential capital
projects, funded, unfunded and those awaiting
approval to be put on the list. That way
residents can fully understand the universe
of needs before recommending individual
projects that affect budget decisions and
their associated tax consequences.
Make no mistake, many of the quality-oflife
projects that made the City Council’s
and the mayor’s final cut in Proposition 2
are worthy of consideration. Unfortunately,
many other deserving projects such as capital
funding for an improved transit system
were left out due to the hurried nature of
With four years remaining we have time
to evaluate and prioritize which projects
deliver the best return on investment and
deserve to make the final cut. Let’s defeat
this knee-jerk proposal and begin a more
thoughtful process on how we might build
on the successes of Vision 2025. Most importantly,
let’s get more public input from
the outset, not as an afterthought.
Bill Leighty is a member and former chairman
of the Tulsa Metropolitan
Area Planning Commission and
currently serves as vice-chairman
of the Transportation Advisory Board.
Bill Leighty: Let’s defeat this knee-jerk proposal and begin a more thoughtful process on how we might build on the successes of Vision 2025.
Most importantly, let’s get
more public input from the
outset, not as an afterthought.