Five former mayors and five current city councilors joined Mayor G.T. Bynum at the Tulsa Zoo on Friday to show their support for the $639 million Improve Our Tulsa renewal package that goes to voters Tuesday.
“This is so important for the citizens of Tulsa to see and hear. … One, you have nine city councilors from different parts of the city, from different backgrounds and life experiences and political parties, unanimous in agreement on the need to do this,” Bynum said. “You have mayors whose service has spanned over decades. Some of us have run against each other, from different political parties, and we are unanimous in our support today for this program.”
The former mayors who attended Friday’s press conference were Robert LaFortune, Rodger Randle, Susan Savage, Kathy Taylor and Dewey Bartlett.
LaFortune, who said his family would picnic at the zoo when he was a child, stressed the important role the city’s past streets and capital improvement packages have had in helping Tulsa grow.
“They have been a catalyst for new ideas to enhance the city in those areas that needed to be addressed,” he said.
The message was echoed by his fellow former mayors.
“Years ago — decades ago, in fact — I read a statement, and it has stayed with me, that ‘great cities don’t just happen; they are built,’ ” Savage said. “And they are built by the investment that we as citizens make in our community.”
The Improve Our Tulsa renewal is an extension of the $917.8 million Improve Our Tulsa package that voters approved in 2013.
It includes $427 million in street and transportation projects, $193 million in capital projects and $19 million for the city’s Rainy Day Fund.
About two-thirds of the package would come from bond sales, financed with property taxes, and the other third from sales tax. The 6½-year program would begin in fiscal year 2020.
Tulsans will vote on three propositions Tuesday — one for streets and transportation, one for capital projects and one for the Rainy Day Fund.
The package includes no tax increases. If all three propositions are approved, the city’s sales tax and property tax rates would remain the same. If one or more of the propositions fail, the tax rates would decrease accordingly.
The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Bartlett, who led the successful campaign to pass the original Improve Our Tulsa package, urged Tulsans to continue building on its success.
“It’s their opportunity to be involved in a visionary process of what our city is going to look like, … how it is going to be judged by those who haven’t seen our city very often at all,” he said. “It will be an opportunity to attract people” to Tulsa.
While most of the package would go to street, transportation and bridge projects, Randle noted that it has substantial funding for quality-of-life projects, including $30 million for park improvements.
“For the quality-of-life aspects of the community that have been included, I am enthusiastic in my support for this” package, Randle said.
Taylor, who led the city’s campaign for the 2008 Fix Our Streets program, said her time as Oklahoma’s secretary of commerce helped her appreciate the impact public investments can have in a community.
“What I found is that the cities and towns that were thriving were the towns that … invested in themselves,” she said. “And when they invested in themselves, the jobs came. When they invested, people moved to their community because of the quality of life.”