Just nine days before the beginning of its fiscal year, the city of Tulsa has its half-billion dollar budget. The vote was unanimous, despite a last minute debate over the Main Mall project.
KOTV's Sean Mossman was at the meeting and says compared to the price tags of other capital improvements; the Main Mall is very small. Only a million dollars budgeted toward the project next year, but it was again the center of debate. Shortly after opening discussion of the city's 2002 budget, the debate again turns to the Main Mall. The Mayor asks for a million dollars of projects done this year. She says it might help the city get up to five million in state funds if the projects begin. City Councilor Todd Houston, fresh off a meeting with the Mayor two days earlier, calls into question the idea that the project should begin this year. He calls forward State Senator Charles Ford who contradicts the mayor's understanding that state money would be available this year. Houston's questions of the mayor are viewed by dozens in the gallery and even more watching at home. Mayor Susan Savage says "It was a surprise and I think when we are dealing with something as important and as serious as public dollars it does get frustrating at times when it appears that people aren't being as straight-forward."
Houston's questions about the timing of the project end when an owner of downtown's Mayo Building speaks up. He says his group is willing to spend two-to-four million dollars to renovate the building, unless the Main Mall project is delayed. Craig Nemec with the Pearson Group says "If these decisions keep getting made we'll probably look at turning it into a parking garage or just leaving it alone and talking about land uses for that building." "I am going to be supporting the budget." Houston's questions end and the 2002 budget passes unanimously. With the mayor's budget now passed she's met in the hall by Houston and the debate officially ends, for now.
Beginning July 1st, the Main Mall, and all other improvement projects in Tulsa will begin. The major project at the Main Mall this year will be the replacement of the fountain. Every other mall project will have to be debated and approved in yearly budgets to come.