Vision2 vote nears, both sides step up campaign efforts

TULSA - Three and a half weeks are all that's left before county voters decide the fate of Vision2, and both sides are kicking into high gear.

With many voters expected to cast ballots in November because of the presidential election, both proponents and opponents of Vision2 want to make sure their supporters show up. They also want to persuade undecided voters.

On Saturday, the campaigns held  events at their respective headquarters to pass out signs, bumper stickers and buttons.

Vision2 would extend the six-tenths of a penny sales tax from Vision 2025 that is set to expire at the end of 2016.

If Vision2 passes the sales tax would be extended through 2029.

The county wants to spend the $748 million the tax would generate on economic development and quality of life improvement projects.

Among the quality of life projects: $38 million would be used to construct a juvenile justice center; $25 million would be spent on roads and bridges; $12 million on Expo Square improvements; and $10 million would go toward levee improvements along the Arkansas River.

In all, about $361 million would be spent on quality of life projects.

About $334 million would be spent on airport infrastructure to upgrade citizen-owned facilities. An additional $50 million would be put into a "jobs fund" that proponents say will be used to attract and keep companies in Tulsa.

Michael Willis, deputy chief county commissioner and Vision2 supporter, said the sales tax extension would mean more jobs for the Tulsa region.

"We have to get out here and compete for jobs because if we don't, other people are going to come take the ones we've got and we're not going to be able to grow as much as we want to grow," said Willis. "We need to do this. We need to do this for the future of Tulsa County."

Willis estimated about 100 volunteers from the campaign were passing out literature and signs on Saturday.

But proponents of Vision2 weren't the only ones out and about on Saturday.

Citizens for a Better Future is made up of opponents of Vision2. The group passed out signs, button, and stickers.

Michael Bates is a blogger and a staunch opponent of the tax plan.

"It doesn't make sense for us to commit money that we don't begin collecting for four years and to spend almost $100 million just on interest to carry debt for 17 years," said Bates, who believes much of Vision2 amounts to corporate welfare.

Bates said he believes Vision2 was put on the ballot too quickly.

"The Vision2 plan is too rushed, too soon, and too sloppy the way it was put together," said Bates.

When asked about opponents of Vision2 -- specifically Citizens for a Better Future -- Willis said they have not submitted anything better.

"They've not participated in public input meetings. You have two different kinds of people in that campaign --people who are promoting themselves for individual public office and the people who are always on the 'no' side of just about every issue," said Willis.

For his part, Bates believes it would be a better idea for cities to pass a six-tenth sales tax to replace the current Vision 2025 tax when it expires. He said the cities would be able to spend the money on whatever projects they think are necessary, without a say from the county.

"The city of Tulsa, for example, would raise $150 million more than we get from the Vision2 program," said Bates.

For now, both sides are digging in, raising money and trying to get the word out.

However, county voters will have the final say on November 6.

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