Monday, January 03, 2005

Q: Are You Anti-Growth?

A: One of the most befuddling accusations being made by the shady group seeking recall is that my fellow reform-minded councilors and I are “anti-growth.” No councilors to my knowledge are anti-growth. We do, however, have some significant differences of opinion as to the type of growth that we should be pursuing.

The two predominate philosophies before us today are green field/expansion growth and density growth.

My best guess as to the root of the “anti-growth” accusation has to be our opposition to Mayor LaFortune’s proposal to annex 23 square miles of north Tulsa County. With the notable exception of the Cherokee Industrial Park, the vast majority of the proposal was to take in “green field” or undeveloped land. There were numerous reasons this was an ill-conceived endeavor, not the least of which was a total lack of any comprehensive plan for the development of the area, save for the plan devised in the early 1970s.

Twenty-three square miles of new city would have added an area to Tulsa’s city limits equivalent to the entire square mileage of Tulsa in the early 1930s. It took us over thirty years to develop the infrastructure for the city up to that point. It isn’t unreasonable to conclude that the addition of this much land, with the requirement by state law that we provide sewer and water to the area, would significantly tie up our next several Third Penny Sales Tax and General Obligation Bond packages.

If we are spending money building new streets, sewers and water systems, where will we get the funding to rehabilitate all of the streets, sewers and waterlines that were build in the early decades of the last century, when we were urbanizing the first twenty-three square miles?

Density development is more efficient in its use of tax dollars. For instance, it costs less to build a short but larger diameter waterline for a high density area of a given population, than it does to build a long but thin line for the same population that is spread out over a wider area that is farther from the core.

Tulsa is now at the same stage of its development as some of our older and larger neighbors were earlier. Cities like Kansas City and Dallas were eventually ringed in by their suburbs and were limited in how and where they could grow. We should learn the lessons that their experiences have to teach us.

Given that suburbs, by their nature are newer than the core cities they abut, it follows that they have newer schools, streets and water and sewer lines. Their shopping centers will be newer and zoned and planned to a more modern standard that is in keeping with current retail trends. The homes that house the bedrooms of these “bedroom communities,” are also newer, with more modern conveniences and less upkeep.

What the suburbs have to sell is “new,” “modern” and “safer.” If Tulsa is to thrive as a core city, then we must begin to leverage what Tulsa has to offer. Proximity to the work place, older homes in stable neighborhoods with mature trees and curbs and shopping experiences that can’t be found in the suburbs.

It is the latter that makes the loss of the Bass Pro Shoppe to Broken Arrow such a disturbing occurrence, which may represent the single greatest failure of Mayor LaFortune’s administration. But more on that some other time.

Tulsa’s streets have been rated by one national organization as the ninth worst in the United States. Many of water and sewer lines in the neighborhoods, which are promising for infill development, are nearing the century mark in age and beg for rehabilitation. This has been increasingly difficult to do, given that our water board’s priorities of regional green field development to the suburbs coupled with Federal sewer mandates, which have drained much of the resources Tulsa needs to modernize its older areas.

A final point that warrants mention in my North Tulsa County annexation opposition is the fact that all development in the area, would have benefited two school districts via increased ad valorem tax revenues. These would have been the Sperry and Owasso school districts. If we continue to see disproportionate growth into the areas that support suburban school districts, thus increasing the property values of the suburbs at the expense of the core city, then it follows that we will see no end to the movement of the young professionals and middle-class from Tulsa and to the suburbs.

This is the key demographic that lures most retail companies into an area. Retail follows key demographics with disposable income. Families from such demographic groups follow solid school systems. Suburban school systems benefit to a far greater incremental benefit from each dollar of increased property values, which are fueled by new development.

Decreased property values in Tulsa make it harder for Tulsa’s three school systems (Tulsa Public Schools, Jenks and Union) to compete. In the short term, this is especially damaging to TPS. Suburban flight takes incremental tax dollars out of Tulsa, which makes it doubly difficult to fix aging streets, water and sewer lines, as well as to adequately fund public safety. Decreased police and fire support adds volatile fuels to the cycle that pushes even more people out of the core city.

Sound familiar? It should.

I am not anti-growth. What I am is realistic. If we don’t begin changing some trends, then Tulsa is going to look more like inner-city Baltimore than it is inner-city Kansas City.

Regionalism is all well and good, but it should be a two-way street. If we are supposed to give to the greater good of the region, then it is fair to assume that we should receive proportionally. What we have right now are anti-growth accusations being made by selfish business interests that have spent the past several decades injecting Tulsa’s sales tax revenues and resources into their business plans.

I think it’s time for a new discussion and some new policies to address Tulsa’s new realities.


Anonymous said...

Very well said, Councilor Medlock!!

By the way, is there documentation of what Owasso, Broken Arrow and Bixby (as well as any other suburbs tapping into Tulsa)have provided for Tulsa, in return for the resources and tax dollars that Tulsa has provided to them? Has it really been a "two-way street" or has it been more like "vampires", sucking more and more of the life blood from the main "core" (Tulsa), providing nothing in return, except "death". Sad way to describe the situation, but, seems rather "realistic" to many of us citizens. We say, "come on suburbs, grow up"!

A well thought out growth plan for the City of Tulsa seems overdue....being realistic in both who is involved with the discussion and what are the appropriate policies to be in place, to help eliminate enormous financial gains for any individuals or businesses.

HEAR..HEAR...for the Reform Alliance of the City Council!! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!! You should stand tall and hold your heads up HIGH!!

Anonymous said...

I think that the Recall will be an excellent forum to teach the Recall Cabal a little lesson:

When you start throwing figurative bombs, you better be sure to duck!

I would think that City Councilors Christiansen or Sullivan are actually MORE vulnerable to a Recall than Mister Mautino or Mister Medlock, as they were elected by -0- votes in the last GENERAL Election. Reason being:

Sullivan and Christiansen were both elected in their respective GOP Primary.

Question: How many Recall Petition signatures does it take to initiate a Recall against a City Councilor who was elected in a PRIMARY election?

Answer: -1-.

Notice to the Cockroach Coalition: Don't forget to DUCK!


Anonymous said...

Some comments on Mr. Medlock's reflections on development:

Bass Pro: The agreement between Bass Pro and OKC had a stipulation that Bass Pro could not build another store within 100 miles of the Bricktown Bass Pro location. So, while it was feasible to build in Tulsa, B.A. was legally a better fit.

However, that said, I suspect that there was also a silent agreement trading Broken Arrow City Government's vociferous public support for Vision 2025, in exchange for the Bass Pro store. Can this be proven?

Only if either one of two things happen: The principals tell the truth (unlikely, since being professional politicians, they are also professional LIARS).

Or, secondarily, we are allowed to administer Sodium Pentathol (Truth Serum) to those involved (ain't gonna happen).

So, B.A. gets the Bass Pro Shoppe, and Tulsa's Rooney and Flint Families get $250,000,000 from Tulsa County taxpayers. NICE trade.


Anonymous said...

What kind of "deals" were discussed and agreed upon (and by whom?) for the Walmart Distribution Center (north on highway 75), Smith Marketplace (in Owasso), possibly Cabelas (in Owasso), as well as Bass Pro (in Broken Arrow)?? Are we looking at suburban city leaders, county commissioners, developers and a select few land owners (all having their own selfish motives)....while the cost and tax incentives are carried by the average citizen.
How far are we going to go folks? Let's keep asking questions and calling for accountability! It's not about is about reality and fairness!

Anonymous said...

Question: In looking over the notes of the town meetings held for amending the charter in 1989 I cannot find where it was addressed that the strong mayor could resubmit any proposal or appointment to boards at any succeeding meeting without changes until the council approved of such proposition.

Could it be address as where such silent action can be taken when any proposition receiving a negative vote of the council can be resubmitted at the following meetings until it passes?

Is there a number of times it can be submitted?

Chris Medlock said...

We are beginning to find that there are several fundamental flaws in our charter, as evidenced by the incredibly low threshold necessary to recall an elected official.

The Charter basically says that a board member holds their seat on a authority, board or commission, until such time as their replacement is approved.

As such, we had the situation where the Mayor could simply leave Mr. Cameron and Mr. Reynolds in their positions (because he never sent alternatives to the council for approval). As such, he basically showed that the Charter provision for Council approval of appointments is moot, should a Mayor choose to act in defiance of the spirit and intent of the Charter, which is exactly what Mayor LaFortune did.

Then, he allowed Mr. Poe and Councilor Sullivan to turn up the heat on other councilors, trying to secure a fifth vote. He failed with Councilors Henderson, Mautino and me (he never even asked Roscoe Turner). It took awhile, but finally Sam Roop relented, some five months after they had first been rejected and after Councilor Roop had twice committed publically that he would "under no circumstances vote to reappoint" Cameron and Reynolds.

We'll need to change the Charter to close this obvious flaw.

Anonymous said...

Is it time to review the ENTIRE CITY CHARTER and update or revise areas that are not adequate? Seems so many of the issues causing confusion now, come from inadequate or out-dated Charter items.
Isn't this another part of REFORM, within the City of Tulsa, right?
Obviously, the mayor doesn't really want reform during his watch.....he is too busy making trips to other parts of the world, telling them how great he is doing here, in Tulsa! Go figure!!

Anonymous said...

The January 8, 2005 Tulsa World has an article on Page A-16 outing a few of the organizations behind the City Council Recall effort.

The paper reported that the list, released Friday, includes the Greater Tulsa Association of Realtors (that's a surprise), The Home Builders Assn of Greater Tulsa (NOT a surprise), and the Associated Builders and Contractors of Oklahoma (NOT a surprise).

I'm a little surprised that the Assn. of Realtors would get involved in this. I wouldn't think that its membership would be too KEEN on getting embroiled in a controversial topic.

The Assn. of Realtors did give generously to the Vision 2025 fund-raising, ranking in the top tier of contributors who wanted to pick their fellow Tulsans pockets for the next 13 years.

Curiously, no INDIVIDUAL names were outed as organizers of the Recall effort. They are still in hiding.

Afraid of something?

Anonymous said...

AFRAID, indeed....they should be! Seems everthing is revolving around this recall effort and until it is solved, we won't be able to move productively forward. The individuals that are behind the recall should hang their heads in SHAME, for pulling the city into such a crisis! GREATER TULSA ASSOCIATION of REALTORS...SHAME ON YOU! HOME BUILDERS ASSOCIATION of TULSA.....SHAME ON YOU! ASSOCIATED BUILDERS & CONTRACTORS of OKLAHOMA...SHAME ON YOU! You have lost a lot of respect and your integrity will always be questioned, by we citizens. How disgraceful can you be, as professional organizations! You made the choice to be involved and now, you must live with the consequences, whatever that may prove to be. It certainly won't help your reputation in the community, we can tell you that much.

Now, we citizens are with the League of Women Voters, NAACP and Tulsa County Republican Party, as organizations with integrity and concern. We certainly have Democrats among us, also....and we all stand together to say, we are well ready for an end to this situation and stopping the attacks on Councilors Medlock and Mautino!

We need our efforts to go toward healing our community (these individuals behind the recall have done enough damage)! To the individuals that are behind the recall effort......we pray for each of you, that the Lord will forgive you and bring peace to our area.
Signed: Representatives of Many Neighborhood/ Citizens's Groups