It started with a phone call from an observant resident, who said, "It looks like work is about to start on building the Greenbelt trail. If that's the case, can the public have some input before things get going?"
Turns out he was right. The pieces are starting to fall into place. We had a meeting with a few interested people, talked through the basics, then went out to the site to kick around ideas.
It was such a good conversation that I wonder if there aren't others who would like a similar opportunity. If you would like to talk about the trail plan, dream a little dream, and walk a few blocks through park land beside the creek, meet me at the south end of Sequoyah Park (near the skate park) next Thursday, July 18 at 11 a.m. Wear your walking shoes, bring your questions, and remember, it may be hot. At least the weather window says it's not supposed to be raining.
Later this week, a group of builders and construction-related individuals asked to talk about ways to encourage building within the city. This is an important topic as our growth pushes beyond our boundaries. To revitalize our older neighborhoods, new building must be encouraged. We don't want to end up like some neighboring towns - dead or dying inner cities surrounded by suburban housing additions. This conversation included discussions about effective incentives, about consistent and understandable building codes, and about what variances are frequently needed. Overall, we talked about having a city culture that encourages investment and careful development. I particularly appreciated those who have lived and worked in other cities and shared ideas or programs from those experiences that were effective.
Interwoven throughout the week were many individual conversations about the pros and cons of a sales tax dedicated to city streets, alleys, roadways, bridges, sidewalks and public infrastructure. The concerns voiced during those conversations led to two significant changes to the original proposal. As originally written, there was no end date for the sales tax. Now there is a term limit providing for the tax to expire in six years, unless it is reauthorized by another vote by city residents.
The second concern was over the term "public infrastructure." Some felt this phrase was too broad and would allow money for streets and sidewalks to be spent on unrelated projects. The original intent of the phrase was to provide for unforeseen related needs, such as a safety light at a crosswalk. The language has now been tightened up to require a relationship to streets, sidewalks, etc. Creating a constant source of revenue for future road and sidewalk needs will allow for longer-term planning, and consistent improvement of our infrastructure. It will also save the city a ton of money when compared to using bond projects to pay for our growth.
I love the way Tahlequah residents are willing to share their ideas. I love they way they're willing to share their concerns, and at the same time help to identify possible solutions. Ah, gee whiz, I kind of love Tahlequah! It's hard not to like people who care.
Sue Catron, former assistant vice president of Business and Finance at NSU, is mayor of Tahlequah.