Here is a recent text message exchange between a friend of mine and me regarding the proposed retail development on the river at 71st Street and Riverside Parkway:

Friend: “I guess we will be having another shopping center soon.”

Me: “It would be great if you would spread the word about the city’s assault on our green space.”

Friend: “It makes me sick.”

Me: “Voices need to be louder. Email your city councilor.”

Friend: “[Sales] Tax revenue keeps property taxes down say the voices.”

Me: “Baloney. Property taxes cannot be raised without a vote at a properly called city-wide or county-wide election. Spread that fact around, too. And property taxes dedicated for local government operation budgets must be authorized by the state legislature. THAT’S not going to happen.”

Friend: “Interesting. Lots of misunderstanding all around.”

Yes, and lots of disinformation, as well as some disputable so-called public hearings.

In response to the Wednesday, August 5, 2015 opposition at the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (TMAPC) regarding the development at 71st and Riverside, according to the Tulsa World, mayoral aide Clay Bird said, “the opposition to the development came at the wrong time. ‘For people who come in at the very end to stop something … to come in at this stage and throw things in there that should have come up a long time ago, I think, is unfair.’”

Bird and others have pointed to numerous public hearings on the matter. That appears to be what spurs Bird to say about opposition arising now, “I think [it’s] unfair.”

Bird is engaging in the deployment of a smoke screen on this matter. Look, I served on the planning commission for five years and in elected city and county government positions for just shy of ten. I know quite well that what are called public hearings by TMAPC are just not the same as bona fide public hearings called by the city council or the county commission. Sure, the TMAPC events are called public hearings, but unless one has the time to peruse their agenda posted at City Hall or has access to the internet and can find the agenda online, the hearing will come and go without a whimper. The same was done recently to achieve an amendment to the adopted land use plan to slip in commercial use at 71st and Riverside, just to accommodate this project.

Let’s have a full blown public hearing – or more than one – held in evening hours with paid legal notices and other announcements in local newspapers and official releases to local news and social media. That’s the way you fairly inform the public. That’s the way you truly get public input.

I fear what is emerging is a quiet all-out assault by the city on our wonderful green space inventory. Earlier this year there was an effort to put a large outlet mall on land immediately adjacent to Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Park. Nothing north, south or east of that location is anything but good green ground. When there was opposition, the city offered to sell off an existing, well-established, city park for the development; now this at 71st and Riverside Parkway.

What next? Because we have succeeded in curbing flash flooding, will there be an attempt to package and sell the green space in our floodplain acquisition areas? Don’t be surprised if that doesn’t pop up sooner rather than later.

Perhaps by using the construction of the wonderful “The Gathering Place” project as a distraction, the city is otherwise literally selling our green space right from under our feet.

Editors Note:  The views expressed on this web site are those of our contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policy of Smart Growth Tulsa, its Trustees or Advisory Board members, or our affiliate member organizations unless specifically stated.

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