Tahlequah Daily Press

October 22, 2012

Get involved in city’s future


Tahlequah — Where do you see Tahlequah in the next five years? The next 10? And why should you care?

If Tahlequah is your home, you should care about how its history unfolds. And you should be especially concerned if you plan to raise your children here, and see your grandchildren among the local population.

Over the years, many local residents have expressed regret that their children move away when grown. They wonder why can’t we coax in some light industry or cutting-edge business concern that will keep young people from leaving for perceived “greener pastures.”

To be sure, we have Northeastern State University and the Cherokee Nation, as well as a dozen or so other major employers. But while these entities are crucial for the survival of this area, they aren’t quite enough to ensure robust economic growth well into the next few decades. That type of development requires a skilled and productive work force, but it also calls for a strong infrastructure – like good streets, a network of sidewalks, inviting public spaces, adequate venues for  gatherings, and a mixture of facilities for entertainment and other diversions, like sporting events and concerts. Perhaps, one day, an indoor aquatics facility like Muskogee has.

Tahlequah does boast some fine public parks. But even the most avid fan of this city would admit other facets could use improvement – that is, if we’re to attract the kind of commercial interests that will secure our future.

Those projects will cost money, of course, and that’s why Mayor Jason Nichols and the four city councilors are looking for public input on a capital improvement proposal. Nichols has collected a number of suggestions on his Facebook page and elsewhere, but he’s also scheduled a meeting for Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Armory Municipal Center, 100 N. Water Ave.

At this point, officials are thinking about asking city voters to approve a 3/4-cent sales tax to fund potential projects. This would essentially replace the 1/4-cent tax that just went off the books, plus add another 1/2 cent to the lineup.

We can almost hear the gasps of disbelief, and the comments: “A tax? Right now? During these tough economic times?” City officials know that will be the reaction, and that’s why they want your input and your opinions. They want to know not only what projects citizens would like to see on the drawing board, but which of those projects they deem worthy a bit more tax money.

For some people, no undertaking will be worth even the most minuscule tax hike – and considering how people have been deceived over the years by politicians at every level, who could blame them? Other folks, though, might be willing to entertain a new tax – perhaps not as high as 3/4 cent, and not for just any proposal. But for certain projects, maybe – and maybe even “yes.”

If you have a vested interest in Tahlequah, attend Tuesday night’s meeting, and let your voice be heard. In the long run, you might not get exactly what you want, but you can at least be confident this particular set of officials is going to listen to what you have to say.