Poll: Would You Support A Tulsa Public Safety Sales Tax?
By Emory Bryan, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- The City of Tulsa could soon be paying for the rehiring laid off police officers. That option includes using a federal grant and if additional laid off officers are to be rehired, a new sales tax was also discussed.
Thirty-five of the laid off police officers might be rehired with the U.S. Department of Justice grant money. The sales tax would add to the current budget for police and fire.
The two ideas got very different receptions.
The federal grant is all but a done deal and could mean some officers will be rehired as early as next week. The sales tax has to go through the council first and, so far, they don't approve.
Take the NewsOn6.com Poll at the end of this story.
The Tulsa city council is divided, but mostly against creating a new 1 cent sales tax dedicated to public safety.
"I don't think adding more sales tax on what we have right now is going to solve the problem," said Councilor G.T. Bynum.
If the council eventually approves the tax, voters would make the final decision.
"'We' is not ‘us.' ‘We' is the people. It's up to the people. That's who sent us here, that's who needs to vote on this," said Councilor Jack Henderson.
Councilor Rick Westcott pointed out that public safety already costs more than what the city collects from the 2 cent sales tax.
"I don't think we can solve the problem by another third penny dedicated to public safety," said Councilor Rick Westcott.
On a related topic, the council voiced support for a $3 million federal grant being used to hire back 35 laid off police officers. The city already has the grant, but using it for this purpose requires approval from the Justice Department.
"The impression we're under is that it wouldn't take them a long time to approve it, in fact they can approve it faster than you can approve it," said Terry Simonson, Mayor's Chief of Staff.
The police chief says it would help re-establish some of the department's street level force.
"That will enable me to go back to the normal course of accident investigation, where we're not taking telephone reports of stuff. It would allow me to put the traffic units back to enforcement. It would mean a great deal for the city," said Interim Chief Chuck Jordan, Tulsa Police.
The grant would keep 35 officers on the job for 17 months. Using it would take away money now used for meth lab cleanup and new technology like computers in police cars.