It was a close vote, but plans to improve the Arkansas River will not be happening, at least not anytime soon. On Tuesday, Tulsa County residents cast their ballots on proposed improvements to the Arkansas River. With 100% of precincts reporting, Tulsa County has voted against the 4/10ths of a cent sales tax for development to the Arkansas River corridor, 52% to 48%. While supporters of the plan are upset it did not pass, opponents are glad that voters said no.
"I'm very pleased with the outcome of the vote, I was a strong opponent of the yes vote obviously, I was no from the very beginning," said State Senator Randy Brogdon. "The people have spoken tonight and I appreciate the engagement of the debate that we've had over the last couple of months. But the people have spoken and hopefully now we can get back to doing business, the county can get back to doing its business and the suburbs, the community of Owasso and Broken Arrow and Sperry, we can take care of our own communities."
That failed tax would have funded $282 million in river improvements. The private sector donated $117 million to the project. The nearly $400 million project would have paid for more low water dams and pedestrian bridges, as well as open the door for commercial development along the river.
"We will continue to move this city, this region forward. There are lots of great things going on in this community, and tomorrow morning we will wake up and we will continue with all the great things that we know are in the spirit of this community," Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor said.
The Arkansas River Tax gained support from several Tulsa County communities, Bixby, Jenks, Owasso, Sand Springs, but it was opposed by one of Tulsa's largest suburbs, Broken Arrow. Residents in North Tulsa were also against the tax hike. Leaders in the North Tulsa community said they would not benefit from development along the river, saying they needed development in their community.
"From now on, anytime anyone wanna come up with any kind of tax they're gonna have to come to us and let us sit down with them and sit at the table and be a part of the process," said Tulsa City Councilor Jack Henderson. "I hope there is someone listening to me on the other side of this issue that understands, you had all the money in the world and all we had was some grassroots people that was standing for right, doing the right thing. All we wanna do, all we're asking is that in the future, when you come up with a plan make sure we're part of your plan or take it back home."
There was a good turnout for Tuesday's vote, 127,766 Tulsa County residents cast their ballots.