Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Point-Four Percent Solution

Ready or not, here they come!

For those of us who entertain themselves by being sensitive to potential portents in the paper, Sunday's Tulsa World should have Vision 2025 critics girding their loins, and preparing for battle.

There are two stories which appear to be the “tells.”

First, the Tulsa World chose this week to put a front-page, above-the-fold story and photograph on the BOK Center’s progress. The tax-and-spend crowd have been waiting patiently for months to be able to show progress on the arena, far enough from last Spring's devestating, but inevitable announcement that the project was well over budget.

Second, is the story and photo (sans waders) of District 2 County Commissioner Randi Miller, who interestingly states, “'I’m willing to fall on the sword. If we have private money step up, then I’m willing to say we will meet you with public funds because that is what the citizens I represent want,'"

Boy, look at all the questions such a statement begs.

What public funds? What private money? What citizens? What sword?

Oh yeah…one more…when?

As for the first question, we can deduce (rather safely) that the spinmeisters at Schnake- Turnbo and the Tulsa World would not have subjected Commissioner Miller to the possibility of infection from water borne dermatophytes, if the plan wasn’t for Tulsa County to be the source of ‘public funds.” Surely you remember that .4% of penny tax that was approved by the voters for Boeing during the Vision 2025 vote, but never levied because Boeing never ventured outside of the Seattle area?

That money (and it is sizable) has been burning a hole in the pockets of many a county commissioner and their cronies. It has never been a question of “if” they would put together a package for voter consideration, but merely a matter of when, which is the last “begged question” I listed.

The gathering P.R. storm that is showing on my radar says, “Soon…very soon!”

Tactically, the county’s advisors have always preferred the holiday season for their tax-raising experiences. Remember the failed Tulsa City/County Library vote in December, 2004? Remember the successful Four-To-Fix the County vote in December, 2005?

The formula works great for passage. One part busy voters more concerned with finding parking close to the mall than finding fault in a tax proposal, two parts worn out conservatives fresh from doing statewide battle to win back the Governor’s office and trying to end a century long Democrat monopoly of the State Senate, topped off with evenings that come early, limiting the effectiveness of door-to-door grassroots campaigning.

Look for the question to be put to voters some time between December, 2006 and February, 2007.

Then there’s the question of who gets to commingle their “private funds” with the “people’s money?” Let’s examine some more of what Commissioner Miller told the Lorton Gazette:

“This is the right time for us to dive into the
river. It’s time for the private sector to step up
and for the public to help support that,” Miller

“The private sector can’t do it all alone; the
public sector can’t do it alone; and what we’ve
done so far just isn’t enough. It is going to take
everyone joining hands. It’s about everyone making
the investment for our future. That’s what will
make river development work,” she said.
Everyone? Do I get to invest? Does the average citizen get a piece of the pie? Well sure we do! We get to invest our taxes! The beauty of "everyone joining hands" is, it makes it easier for the bureaucrats to pick your pockets.

All this raises more questions. If you're developing the river, then you're developing river property, right? Who owns the property now? Who is going to own it after the taxpayers have flooded millions into private property?

Even if you build in the middle of the river, there are questions. Building a big, "pleasure island" in the middle of the Arkansas River [an idea I like, with private money] makes one wonder to what extent the indian tribes might have to be dealt a hand.

There was talk during my last months on the City Council, that Mayor LaFortune and Commissioner Miller had held talks with Roger Hardesty about selling the cement batch plant near the West Festival Grounds. Good plan. Use of tax payer dollars to secure developable land, at a fair market price, works for me. But what other properties are being looked at?

Can you imagine the County serving as a long term landlord, securing land inside the City of Tulsa, and issuing leases to private developers? That would be a disaster.

The bottom line to all of this is, the County has no place in raising, directing and overseeing additional sales tax revenues. By pursuing higher County sales taxes, the City of Tulsa will lose available potential taxes that might have to be called on in the event of a public safety crisis. Add to this, the fact that the County serves as both the Executive and Legislative branches of government and you have a bad prescription for the funneling of nearly $1 Billion of tax payer money.

But that won't deter those that have been waiting patiently to get their hands on all that Boeing money.

Gird those loins folks, it's going to be a hectic holiday season.

1 comment:

bamlock said...

Wonder if a bridge deal will be work in to help bring everyone together?