Tulsa County voters reject Vision2
BY BRIAN BARBER AND KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
11/06/12 at 10:53 PM
Tulsa County voters strongly rejected Tuesday the $748.8 million Vision2 sales-tax package backed by many government and Tulsa Metro Chamber leaders.
“I don’t even know what to say because I’m so incredibly disappointed,” Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith said at the somber Vision2 supporters’ watch party at the downtown Holiday Inn.
“We are going to have to go back and figure out how we get some of these critical needs taken care of.”
Incomplete totals gathered from polling locations showed both Vision2 proposals had failed.
Proposition 1 totaled $386.88 million and would have gone toward improvements at three key city-owned industrial sites at Tulsa International Airport that are currently in use by American Airlines, Spirit AeroSystems and IC Bus.
It also would have established a deal-closing fund for leaders to help lure new and grow existing area businesses.
Proposition 2 totaled $361.9 million and would have been apportioned to the county and its municipalities based on population for quality-of-life projects, including a new juvenile justice center, Expo Square enhancements, Arkansas River low-water dams, and Tulsa Zoo, park and library upgrades, among others.
At a watch party held at Tally’s Good Eats, Vision2 opponents said the voters had spoken loud and clear.
“We are thrilled the citizens of Tulsa didn’t buy in to the sell,” said Ronda Vuillemont-Smith.
“This is a true David-and-Goliath story, considering the amount of money and people on their side and our side ... It was common sense versus nonsense.”
The group, Citizens for a Better Vision, heavily relied upon social media to get its message out, while supporters waged an expensive media campaign.
Touted as an early extension of Vision 2025, the 0.6 percent Vision2 tax would have run from 2017 until 2029.
The genesis of the proposal was the ongoing bankruptcy of American Airlines and government and Tulsa Metro Chamber officials wanting to do something to prevent further job losses at the local maintenance base.
The deal-closing fund and the community quality-of-life portion were added as the package was developed.
In their concession speech, Vision2 co-chairmen Don Walker, Mayor Dewey Bartlett and Tulsa County Commissioner John Smaligo said the defeat doesn’t diminish their commitment to moving the region forward.
Whether another package is pursued remains to be seen, Bartlett said.
“We will regroup and collectively look at other ways we might approach the public,” he said. “We have to support economic development and our infrastructure as a community.
“But obviously something about this didn’t solicit a positive response from voters.”
Vuillemont-Smith said the defeat of the proposals came from not having enough time or information to determine whether the city needs the projects.
“It was too fast,” she said. “(The tax) doesn’t expire until 2017. It was too rushed. It was too sloppy. It was too vague.”
Tulsa Metro Chamber CEO Mike Neal said Tulsa faces “an immediate risk of losing jobs” by the failure of Vision2.
“Our region remains in a daily competition with cities in this area of the country and across the nation for jobs and a skilled workforce,” he said.
Vision2 would have helped the airport industrial complex be marketable for a viable, long-term growth industry, he said.
Neal said he is “dismayed” that voters didn’t see the need for Tulsa to have a deal-closing fund, like many other cities and regions have.
Some voters may have been confused by the wording of the two Vision2 propositions on the ballot, Neal said.
“The actual ballot language said Tulsa County Propositions 1 and 2 and I think many people didn’t get that,” he said.
“Maybe we’re at fault for not promoting that better. And I think many people didn’t understand the urgency of the proposals.”
Council Chairman G.T. Bynum and Councilor Blake Ewing were against Proposition 1 but— Ewing reluctantly—supported Proposition 2.
“It’s important that Tulsans know our city is still the kind of place where businesses are going to want to relocate and grow without taxpayers having to pay them to do so,” Bynum said.
“I am proud of Tulsans fore rejecting any assumption to the contrary. We can do better, and we will.”
Bynum said he wanted to see Proposition 2 pass, in part, because of its low-water dam funding.
“I hate that we missed another chance at putting water in the river, but I understand the voters’ reservations about the process.”
Ewing said he wasn’t surprised by the results.
“Every conversation I had, people had the same concerns and skepticisms,” he said. “I hope our area leaders have learned something here, and that is there’s a good way to do these things.
“The public is willing to vote for things that will improve our community if they are presented to them in an appropriate time frame and with enough public discussion and those things didn’t happen here."
Ronda Vuillemont-Smith and Roscoe Turner celebrate on Vision2 being defeated at a watch party at Tally's on Tuesday night. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Supporters of Vision2 conceded Tuesday night. BRIAN BARBER/Tulsa World