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KOTV - 9/9/2007 7:39 PM - Updated 9/14/2007 11:56 AM

River Tax Supporters Face Upstream Battle

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It's an upstream battle for supporters of the Arkansas River tax. They have a month to convince Tulsa County voters to invest in the Arkansas River. River tax supporters say it will have a ripple effect that will benefit the entire county. The News On 6's Joshua Brakhage reports communities without a riverfront say they don't want to be sold up a creek and not have anything to show for it.

"This is our future and we have to take advantage. We can't squander that opportunity," said Our River Yes volunteer Ryan Bowling.

Twenty-three year old Ryan Bowling moved back to Tulsa after graduating from OU. The Our River Yes volunteer says the county needs to invest in its natural assets.

"I noticed in Tulsa, there's just not as many young people here. It doesn't have that excitement," Bowling said. "I think that's what the river really represents for our future, keeping our young people in Tulsa, and keeping our best natural resource."

Dozens of north Tulsans rallied against the river tax Saturday, saying they don't plan to pay for river development while their neighborhoods deteriorate.

"River tax doesn't do anything for the north community, nothing at all," Tulsa City Councilor Roscoe Turner said. "It doesn't do anything for the east community, nothing at all. We're just as important as Broken Arrow. Broken Arrow's decided they don't want to be bothered with it, and the north community's decided we don't want to be bothered with it."

Broken Arrow's mayor and an Owasso state senator are also on board with the No River Tax campaign. The opposition doesn't have the resources the pro-tax campaign does, so they're relying on yard signs and sheer numbers to do the talking.

The yes vote has yard signs too, some 8,000 with more on order and they can do their talking through television commercials.

Supporters feel low water dams bought with the river tax all but guarantee riverside development.

"There is not a community or a city that we have found that has done a similar type of river development that has failed," said river tax supporter Jean Letcher.

Supporters also say now's the time to act. Private donors have already pledged $117 million toward the project if county taxpayers chip in the rest. And they argue anyone from the community is welcome to use new river amenities, even if they live in parts of the county left high and dry.

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