Very little of value comes easy, and so was the case for the important community improvements of Vision 2025. The City of Tulsa had brought forward civic projects in 1997 and again in 2000, but they were rejected by voters. Tulsa County on the same date in 2000 gathered voter approval for four propositions of detailed area improvement projects called “4-to-Fix-the-County”. The lessons gathered from both voter rejection and approval were clear – to garner public support officials must be specific, ballot questions must be presented in menu, and inclusive of the greater area.
In May of 2002, Tulsa County sponsored Dialog 2025 where representatives from all Tulsa area municipalities came together to discuss the needs and opportunities for growth. The same grassroots focus was evident in July of the same year at the Mayor’s Vision Summit sponsored by the City of Tulsa. Both featured opportunity for every interested citizen to get involved – to have a voice and add substance to the future. The citizen-directed, non-profit organization TulsaNow also hosted what was called the “Battle of the Plans” in October 2002, again a forum for individual citizen ideas to meld for the benefit of the greater community.
Then something unique happened. City and County government came together to work towards a common goal – a united visionary planning opportunity for the Tulsa region. Together they sponsored the “Dialog/Visioning 2025 Citizen’s Summit” in November 2002. It was a televised event that all citizens of the greater Tulsa area were welcomed to attend. This was followed in February 2003 with the Tulsa Regional Youth Summit, to gain the perspective of Tulsa’s high school- and college-aged young adults. In January, February, and March 2003, the City of Tulsa and Tulsa County jointly held 12 topical meetings in areas of interest such as Education, Downtowns and Neighborhoods, and the Arkansas River to provide even more opportunity for input and a forum in which to present project ideas. In addition, the Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG), a regional planning and coordination agency, established a website to facilitate citizen proposals by email.
The City of Tulsa and Tulsa County’s combined efforts became the “Vision Process.” Additional public meetings large and small explored citizen, official and expert perspectives on what projects were needed and practical throughout Tulsa County. A Leadership Committee was formed to guide the selection process and a Coordination Committee helped to process the proposals. In total, over 300 proposals were submitted which, if all were fully funded, would have required public investment of over $4 billion. Through an exhaustive selection process, the list was reduced to $885 million for 32 projects.
The Vision Proposed
The core of Tulsa’s success has always been private enterprise, and the Vision 2025 propositions provide public infrastructure projects and incentives for private enterprise to flourish throughout Tulsa County. The four-part measure consists of:
Proposition 1: Economic Development/Boeing – $350 Million (40% of a penny). This proposal provided incentives for The Boeing Company to produce its new 7E7 commercial aircraft in Tulsa, creating 800 to 1,200 new jobs plus an estimated 8,000-9,000 related jobs for vendors and suppliers. Because Boeing did not select Tulsa, this proposition, though passed by voters, did not go into effect. As a result the total sales tax increase will only be 6/10th of a penny levied for 13 years.
Proposition 2: Capital Improvements/American Airlines – $22.3 Million (2.5% of a penny). This proposal was an incentive for American Airlines, a leading employer in Tulsa for more than 50 years, to retain existing jobs and attract new ones at the company’s Tulsa Maintenance Base by providing funds for capital improvements, equipment, tooling and training.
Proposition 3: Economic Development/Education, Health Care and Events Facilities – $350.3 Million (40% of a penny). This proposition included monies for OU-Tulsa, OSU-Tulsa, NSU-Broken Arrow, Langston-Tulsa, Tulsa Community College-Southeast Campus, common education funding for instruction material for the nearly 107,000 children attending Tulsa County public schools, an expansion for the Morton Health Center, a modernization of the Tulsa Regional Convention Center, a new Events Center, and Expo Square improvements.
Proposition 4: Capital Improvements/Community Enrichment – $157.4 Million (17.5% of a penny). This proposition included monies for Parks, Trails and Community Centers; The River and Attractions; and Community Infrastructure.
By taking into consideration many different viewpoints, the City of Tulsa and Tulsa County were able to build the trust and support of the people around the initiative. When “Vision 2025” was presented to voters it passed as a comprehensive, diverse growth package to better the regional economic health and build community facilities for the benefit of every citizen. As one pundit put it, “It is time to pitch in a penny or turn out the lights, and Tulsans are not the fleeing kind.”