Tahlequah Daily Press

January 11, 2013

Why the tax is good for city

Lisa Timmons Pinnick
Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Since Tahlequah’s city sales tax election Tuesday, there has been quite a lot of fallout on the way things were handled, and on the tax itself. Some people are viewing it as not so much a community initiative, but as a partisan event.

It’s no secret that I’m a conservative, but I tend to make decisions in a nonpartisan way, always casting my vote to what I feel is best for the country, state or locality. Usually – but not always – that means I vote Republican. I am a registered Republican and I am somewhat active with our local party here, as my time allows.

But local tax initiatives, city questions and city elections aren’t partisan issues. A tax question can’t be a “Democrat” issue or a “Republican” issue: It is a “city” issue. Voters are supposed to actually read the proposal and then decide for themselves if it’s in the community’s best interest.

People often think that we conservatives are against spending any money. I think even some conservatives have come to believe that. It’s just not true. Spending money is part of business, and whether we like it or not, that’s kind of what government is about, too. My whole reason for endorsing Mitt Romney for president was precisely because of his business experience. I think a government run more like a business, making the tough fiscal and budget decisions, is what we need.

With the sales tax, we have a plan that will cost less than a penny for every dollar spent in sales in Tahlequah. It’s a consumption tax, and since we each individually can control our own spending, a sales tax is always going to be much more attractive to me than a property tax. Another plus is that when people visit from other towns, they are contributing to these improvements. The tax is not just on our shoulders, but is collected from everyone who benefits from the things Tahlequah offers.

I look at the tax as improving the equity in our town. A sound plan for improvements is needed if we want to bring more tourism and more business into our city. We talk about wanting to elect people to the city council, mayor’s seat, and other offices who will promote bringing business and jobs into our community, but then we want to tie their hands so they can’t do it. What kind of sense does that make?

As a conservative, I know that spending my money on things that will improve the equity of my home is a smarter move than purchasing something more immediate and with less value. I look at this tax as a way to create more equity in Tahlequah. I’m not saying I agree with every line in the proposal, but I do think that overall, it’s a very sound plan. If it meant spending money foolishly and I didn’t think it would help bring in dollars that would more than make up for our initial expense, I would not support it.

If you don’t support the tax and you don’t see things the same way I do, that is your right. My issue is the sour grapes attitudes that show up after the fact. I’m seeing so much fallout now from people saying the tax was “snuck” in. People are blaming the newspaper for not covering the story. By my count, the Tahlequah Daily Press wrote at least six detailed, front-page stories. It also printed several stories and press releases from other sources, plus a couple of editorials, some letters to the editor, and several short releases about tax promoters who were speaking at various civic club meetings. So I think we can hardly say the paper is not being objective, or not putting out the information. They are doing their job, which is reporting the news, and it seems to me they took time to try to speak to both sides of the issue. The weekly Leader also had stories on the tax.

I see lots of comments on Facebook from people who support the proposal and a bit from those who don’t. Yes, the turnout was small, but whom do we blame for that? If you want to win an election, the No. 1 rule is: Bring out the vote. Those who were against the tax probably saw the same kind of chatter I did on Facebook and heard it around town, but didn’t show up to vote because they knew it would likely pass. If you are against the proposal and you didn’t vote, you have no one to blame but yourself. If you were against the tax and did vote, did you bring a friend?

Ask me if I like the result of the presidential election, and my answer will be “nope.” But you will not see me spewing my sour grapes, because I voted, I worked hard to get others to vote, and I made sure everyone in my circles voted and had all the information I could provide. That’s all we can do.

In politics and elections, sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. That is the American way, and despite our problems as a nation, there is no other country I’d want to live in.

As for Tahlequah, I have tremendous pride in this community and the people who live here. I want to see Tahlequah grow and thrive; I want to see its history preserved and its commerce and tourism grow. These things, I believe, will be given a better chance through the sales tax. So I, for one, am happy it passed.

Lisa Timmons Pinnick is owner of The Pulse magazine, a monthly Green Country entertainment, events and community guide.