Tulsa City Council
One Technology Center
175, East 2nd St.
Tulsa OK 74103

RE: – SALES TAX EXTENSION – The Long Version

We strongly applaud the fresh consideration you’ve given to reworking the structure and timing of the sales tax extension effort: it’s a thoughtful, needed, step back initiated by Cr. Gilbert and endorsed over the weekend by Cr. Bynum.

More Time Please…

And your re-look syncs up wonderfully with an increasingly well-informed, energized, public conversation we’ve all seen in recent days. The price for cutting off this encouraging discourse, and elevated interest, could be very high.

We all agree that public investments are absolutely essential to the city’s livability and Tulsa’s ability to compete aggressively with other cities: but we have to get the timing, project mix and benefit yields right-  and there are only a handful of opportunities to do so.

The Schedule…

As you know, the shape, the look and feel of the new package has emerged only in the past three weeks. As a consequence, there has been no time for voters to get their heads around the still emerging range of proposals and the still in flux project mix. At this point, the logic and benefit yields of some of the projects – including some of the most expensive- are sparse, to say the least.

Thankfully, there are plenty of voting opportunities- the current “vision tax” expires at the end of December, 2016. Regularly scheduled elections are in June, August and November. There are forty other Tuesdays after April 5th on which a special election can be set. As you know, cost estimates for a special election can be around $175,000. All the same, it’s a small price to pay compared to the huge importance of the entire package for Tulsa’s mid run future. More time will give voters a better chance to understand the overall package and the character of the projects.

Public Safety…

Also, voters should be given the time to scope out the dedicated funding for police and emergency services championed by Mayor Bartlett, via a separate ‘public safety’ package – this is a grand simplification we strongly embrace and one that might yield more support for the entire effort.

Don’t Short Our “Complete Streets” Progress…

Tulsa now has a ‘Complete Streets’ policy that enables planners and engineers to continue to make Tulsa dramatically more accessible, a more agile space for everyone– including those in wheelchairs, children, every pedestrian, cyclist and public transit rider. We need to go way beyond the ‘pavement condition index’. This singular work is fundamental to Tulsa’s ability  to meet 21st century challenges, and must not be  halted by abrupt re-allocations spawned by our Vision decisions.

15 Years Is A Very Long Time…

The duration of the proposed package- to 2031- is way too long. As it happens, the iPhone was launched in 2007 and Facebook went on line  in 1997; electric cars from Nissan and Tesla were released only in 2010: but we are in a vastly different world because of ubiquitous smartphone use and globe-spanning social computing – and on the verge of a wild new energy and transport era with possible mass acceptance of electric and driverless cars.

We need to give future Tulsa leaders the ability to adapt to local, state, federal, and global innovations as the world continues to change at an increasing pace.  A ten-year horizon is plenty.

Use The Plan…

Finally, ‘Vision’ is one of the more over-used words in Tulsa’s lexicon. We don’t need any more visions, what we need is stout implementation and a path to leveraging our participation-packed Comprehensive Plan. 6,000 Tulsans participated in the creation of the Comprehensive Plan in 2010 which includes a strong consensus vision, spanning the whole range of topics in which local government plays a foundational role. The Plan is supposed to be guiding our development as a city, yet it seems to have played little part in the present deliberations. Nor is it much in evidence in the list of projects. It is time to insist on projects that deliver tangible results from a deeply engaging process, packed with heavy citizen involvement and enormous energy.

We look forward to more engagement with you in the coming days.


Jamie Jamieson and Ray Pearcey
Advisory Board Members

Smart Growth Tulsa

Editor’s Note:  Recently, Smart Growth Tulsa Advisory Board Members collaborated on the drafting of a letter to the Tulsa City Council encouraging them to take some specific actions in reference to finalizing a package to renew the Vision 2025 Sales Tax.  A shorter version was eventually approved and emailed to the mayor and councilors on January 25th, click here to read: Letter to Tulsa City Council 25January2015, We wanted to share this longer version with you as well, authored by Advisory Board Members Jamie Jamieson and Ray Pearcey, .  Much has transpired since our message was delivered to the council and the mayor and at this point it unfortunately appears our recommendations have fallen on deaf ears.


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