Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Tulsa Council Faces Dwindling Time for Setting Election

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Tulsa Council Faces Dwindling Time for Setting Election

Article excerpt

After several minutes of encouraging his fellow councilors to come together for some starting point on the proposed Third Penny sales tax extension, District 7 Councilor Randy Sullivan lifted his hands in exasperation.

It's time for us as a collective council to get off our duffs and make a decision, he urged the others at the table.

But the plea came too late. Though the special meeting started with a quorum of six, council Administrator Donald S. Cannon reminded Sullivan and others that departures by District 9's Susan Neal and District 4's Tom Baker had left the panel below the legal requirement to take action.

To their surprise, Cannon and District 3 Councilor Roscoe Turner then learned that despite intentions to start public hearings that night for gaining voter support and insight, the Third Penny program had not made it onto the regular meeting agenda. That forced the council to hold off action for a special meeting set for 11:30 a.m. Tuesday - with only nine days to make a decision.

The current Third Penny program, which faces an estimated $71 million shortfall, will expire at the end of July. To place an extension on a May 9 ballot, the council must approve the matter by March 2.

Mayor Bill LaFortune's plan for an April vote, which the council stopped Jan. 31, called for a 71-month extension of the Third Penny program, which the City of Tulsa launched in 1991. The mayor had estimated his proposed extension would garner $369.3 million for 20 benefiting projects.

Dividing council sentiments on LaFortune's program were questions over the length of the extension - whether to go 18 months, 60 or more - and exactly what projects to fund. Councilors also expressed again and again frustration with the limited time they had to look over the package - a sentiment that rose again Thursday.

On Feb. 9, the council asked Cannon and his staff to compare the tax proposal prepared by LaFortune to city development and improvement needs recommended in the City of Tulsa Economic Development Strategic Plan, the Tulsa City Council Compendium of Needs Summary and the Vision 2025 programs.

Council Policy Administrator Jack C. Blair presented this overview Thursday in a PowerPoint presentation. While not endorsing any projects, Blair brought out a list of beneficiaries that appeared on more than one proposal, which combined for $55 million. He also noted the LaFortune proposal included $76 million in projects that ranked low, medium or deferred on the city's Capital Improvements Program. And projects that were not ranked high on the CIP or were not directly rated to the city's existing plan or initiative totaled $56.7 million.

On the other side of the coin, Blair pointed out several projects or programs that have been discussed on city development plans or initiatives that were not addressed in LaFortune's proposal, from the Arkansas River Corridor Plan to the Route 66 Master Plan and Boulder Avenue Bridge to 30-minute transit headways, municipal swimming pool improvements and others on the compendium of needs. …

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