Tahlequah Daily Press

February 8, 2013

City ‘tax watch’ begins today


TAHLEQUAH — On the front page of today’s paper, you’ll find the first in what will be an ongoing series to scrutinize the sales tax Tahlequah voters passed Jan. 8.

We pledged to undertake this regular series if the understandably cautious local voters decided to take the plunge and vote for the tax. Many of you believed the three-quarter-cent sales tax was necessary if Tahlequah is to forge a new path into the future. You voted accordingly, and now, it’s our turn.

A few readers have commented that keeping a “watch” on the tax is part of our regular job – and indeed, they’re correct. But what we have in mind is something far more specific. Instead of regular but broad overviews of the various projects, we’ll be looking between the lines, reporting on the minutiae of budgets, and how key people are working behind the scenes.

We’ve undertaken such series before, and so have other newspapers. Some of this might seen boring to the average reader, but for those who are determined to keep track of how their money’s being spent, these finer details could be critical.

By now, most folks know the basic plans: street and sidewalk upgrades; completion of the sports complex, including more stuff for the kids; a cooperative project with NSU to enhance its multipurpose center into an event venue appropriate for city use; the addition of green spaces and projected walking or bicycle trails; and so much more.

As plans develop and the physical work unfolds, we’ll be on the scene when we can, talking to city employees and concerned citizens. We’ll let you know what contractors are doing the work, how much it costs, and how far along various projects have come. If there are delays or problems, we’ll let you know. If expenditures seem questionable or someone suggests a contractor may be getting an advantage from the “good ol’ boy” network, we’ll ask city officials for the scoop, and report back to you.

Our ability to get you the information will, of course, depend on city officials, and in their turn, NSU decision-makers, and the access to records. From the experience we’ve had so far with Mayor Jason Nichols and others involved, we’re confident this will not be a problem. Officials understand our part in the process, and they know about open records, and how critical it is for them to be above board in everything they do – especially when they’ve asked local citizens to contribute to the coffers.

As the developments unfold, you may have questions about different aspects of the work. If you do, drop Staff Writer Josh Newton a line, at jnewton@tahlequah dailypress.com, and he can address your issue in an upcoming installment.

Sales tax advocates have indicated to us they’re eager to keep the public in the loop, and we’ll take them at their word unless we have evidence to the contrary. It’s your job to keep yourself connected to your community. Stay tuned!