Why Did The River Tax Fail?
Tulsa County residents have spoken, voting down a sales tax for improvements along the Arkansas River. After the election results came in Tuesday night, Tulsa's mayor and the chair of the County Commission both said voters didn't want river development. But, The News On 6's Emory Bryan reports there is more to the no vote.
The opponents of Tulsa's river plan found plenty of reasons to vote against it. Polling just before the election showed many voters simply didn't want to pay more taxes, or thought other priorities, like the streets, should come first.
The News On 6-"Tulsa World" Oklahoma Poll showed 34% thought private donors should pay the full cost of river improvements and 10% opposed the plan because they didn't have confidence in the people behind it. Pollster Bill Shapard said voters even turned on the Our River Yes campaign's biggest donor.
"But the way that got spun by the no side was, if he's going to put up all that money, George Kaiser, why doesn't he just pay for all of it. And so while I think George Kaiser and his generosity was the greatest asset for the yes campaign, it also became their greatest liability," Oklahoma Poll pollster Bill Shapard said.
The vote disappointed people who use the river now, who believe it has great potential.
"To have this area much more improved and developed, it's a shame it didn't go through," river trail user Sean Capron said.
The Oklahoma Poll showed only 2% of people in Tulsa County think developing the river is a waste of money, but many were confused about the vote. A third of those polled thought it was the Channels plan to build islands in the river, some thought it was a plan to move the Drillers to Jenks and others thought it was a downtown development deal.
Supporters of the river plan just hope it won't go away for good.
"I just hope it isn't years before it comes up again," said Kimberly Pettit, river trail user.
While voters didn't have any single overwhelming reason to oppose, those groups joined together forming a majority. The question that remains is what county leaders will do in response to the vote, whether the whole thing will go on the shelf or if they'll try to rework it to make it more acceptable.