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Arkansas River Development Topic On Tulsa Mayoral Campaign Trail

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Kathy Taylor, Dewey Bartlett and Bill Christiansen. Kathy Taylor, Dewey Bartlett and Bill Christiansen.

The candidates for mayor all agree developing the Arkansas River should be a priority.

But it's been something that's languished through several administrations at city hall. And it's a topic as the campaign trail heats up ahead of Tuesday's primary election.

6/7/2013 Related Story: Absentee Voting Begins In Tulsa For Mayor, City Auditor

The definition of developing the river has changed from doing all sorts of things along the banks to simply keeping water in the river.

Several decades of talking about what to do with the river have resulted in little change.

After failed attempts to create new tax packages to pay for major changes, the candidates all say it's time to change course because what's been tried hasn't worked.

"No one has taken a comprehensive approach, to what it's going to take, how many years, what the total dollars are, what are the steps," mayoral candidate Kathy Taylor said. "It needs to be treated like any project management program. We need to have a plan, the citizens can see, not necessarily for the development of the banks, let's focus on water in the river."

Bill Christiansen agrees that fixing the low water dam -- to raise the level of the lake that's there -- should be done first.

6/5/2013 Related Story: Tulsa Mayoral Candidates On Five Key Issues

"And once that's done and there's water in the river, I think people will realize how important it is to put water in the river downstream," mayoral candidate Bill Christiansen said. "So, I'm for all for river development, and I think the next two dams eventually will occur but, as you know, it's a funding issue."

On paying for it, while Taylor and Christiansen talked about bringing all the communities and governments together, current mayor Dewey Bartlett says it's time for Tulsa to go it alone on making the next set of improvements.

"We also in my view need to only approach it from a City of Tulsa standpoint, not a County of Tulsa standpoint," Bartlett said. "We've tried that twice now and it hasn't worked. It has to be a city-only function, whatever that function will be, and the private sector must be very involved with it."

And the next mayor could use some political capital to get something going on the river. It all depends on who is elected and how well they can lead the effort.

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