Elected Officials vs Citizens: Who do YOU trust?

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Trust, like character takes a lifetime to build and only an instant to destroy.  Trust is sorely missing in how citizens feel about the officials they elect to represent them and look out for their best interests.  Trust is missing because of the influence of outside factors, such as big business and the chamber of commerce that distract our elected officials from their tasks at hand.

It seems every time we turn around our elected officials have found something new they need to raise your taxes over.  Two years ago there was Vision 2 – a hair brained idea brought to the voters by the city, county and chamber of commerce, to extend the Vision 2025 sales tax until 2029.  The problem was the Vision 2025 sales tax doesn’t expire until December 2016 and they had no plan on how they would spend the money.  Your elected officials were willing to extend a tax that didn’t expire for 5 years, for an additional 12 years, with no plan on how to spend the monies collected and to top it off were eager to spend in excess of $90 million in bonding and interest. Look for the Vision 2025 sales tax extension to come back again soon. Politicians best known secret is, never allow a temporary tax to expire – in other words, there is no such thing as a temporary tax.

Last November a new tax proposal by City of Tulsa elected officials was touted by G.T. Bynum as “the first proposal in city history to lower tax rates.”  What he failed to tell you was your property taxes went up when “Improve Our Tulsa” passed and the amount your sales taxes were lowered was .067, exactly the amount the county is coming after now to expand the jail and build the juvenile justice center.  The citizens never get a break!

Now it’s almost April, just enough time for you to forget that your property taxes were raised and if this jail/juvenile center tax passes you will NEVER see the “lowering of your taxes” that G.T. Bynum promised.  It is shameful the way elected officials play games with its constituents – the very people we elect to look out for our best interests just can’t seem to keep their hands off our hard earned money or speak honestly.

I haven’t even delved into the school bond issues that keep your property taxes high.  Tulsa World reported that Oklahoma’s average state and local sales tax rate is the fifth-highest in the nation, according to a report released by the Tax FoundationMore taxes are NOT the answer.

There are needs at the jail and the juvenile justice center but raising taxes isn’t the solution to the problem.  The county can find other ways to fund these needs, like using the overage from Vision 2025.  No one is quite sure exactly how much overage there will be, which is why Tulsa citizens should demand an independent accounting of Vision 2025 funds and anticipated overage before another new sales tax is considered.  The citizens should also be allowed to vote on the repurposing of Vision 2025 funding to pay for the expansion of the jail and the building of the juvenile justice center, and if the funding falls short, after the depletion of Vision 2025 overage a small short term bond can be voted on to complete the project and will be terminated upon completion of project.  There will be minimum bonding and interest fees since those costs are already factored into Vision 2025’s bonding.

As mentioned in my previous post, the amount of the projected overage from Vision 2025 is all over the board from $6 million to $123 million, to $150 million plus.  The $6 million figure comes from County Commissioners Karen Keith and Ron Peters (elected officials) and the $150 million plus figure comes from someone who sits on the Tulsa County Vision 2025 Oversight Committee (a private citizen).  Which figure do you believe?  Or better yet, who do you trust?

On December 23, 2013, Commissioner Keith signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” between Macy’s Corporate Service, Inc. and the Tulsa County Board of County Commissioners “agreeing to seek any remaining required funds from the Tulsa County Vision Authority” (Vision 2025) to help pay for road construction for Macy’s new building.

It appears that the county is willing to spend taxpayers hard earned money on building a road that benefits BIG business, not to mention all the other tax breaks Macy’s is receiving from moving here that the ordinary citizen or small business doesn’t receive but they have no problem continuously asking the tax payers for more of their hard earned money.  Macy’s was never a part of the Vision 2025 projects and funds should not be used from Vision 2025 to pay for an access road.

How can citizens trust the people they elect when the answer to every need is to raise taxes?  How can citizens trust their elected officials when the officials are eager to waste hard earned tax dollars on millions of dollars in bonding fees and interest instead of using the pay-as-you-go system resulting in more tax dollars going to actual projects?  How can citizens trust when year after year they hear, “this is a temporary tax” and yet it never goes away?  I trust the citizens to vote NO on both propositions April 1st .  I trust the citizens to hold our elected officials accountable by demanding they terminate bonding and use a “pay-as-you-go” method of paying for existing and future projects.  I trust that if given a choice, the citizens would choose to use Vision 2025 overage funds to pay for the needs of the jail and juvenile justice center.  I trust the citizens will send a message to our county commissioners that “Tulsa CAN DO BETTER” and raising our taxes isn’t the end all-fix all to the problems in Tulsa county.

Posted by Ronda Vuillemont-Smith on Just Ronda

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