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As early voting begins, city leaders tout Improve Our Tulsa funding package

Mayor G.T. Bynum speaks at a press conference on Thursday, August 3, 2023
Elizabeth Caldwell
Mayor G.T. Bynum speaks at a press conference on Thursday, August 3, 2023

City leaders are talking up a capital improvement funding package Tulsans will vote on next week.

At a press conference Thursday morning, Mayor. G.T. Bynum said most of the $814 million Improve Our Tulsa 3 package is about maintenance.

“We have allowed facilities across the city to fall behind when it comes to maintenance. Earlier this year, my colleagues on the council and I went on a tour of really critical city facilities. What we saw — and I say this as somebody who loves Tulsa — it was embarrassing,” said Bynum.

Bynum pointed to the Tulsa Fire Department's headquarters, which he says is not fit for emergency response because it's in a floodplain.

“When the water in the Arkansas River gets to a certain level, they have to take their stuff, put it on their desks, and evacuate. By the way, right next door to that in the floodplain is where all of our fire trucks are serviced,” said Bynum.

Bynum spoke about a slate of other maintenance issues, including sewage problems at Tulsa’s courthouse, brown water flowing from faucets at the police station, and public parks with crumbling pavement.

$270 million of the Improve Our Tulsa package would be allocated for city facilities like the fire department. $296 million would go to street repair.

About $153 million is marked for capital equipment, and housing projects would get $95 million.

City Councilor Crista Patrick echoed Bynum’s concerns over city facilities. At the press conference, Patrick mentioned Tulsa’s zoo, BOK Center, the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, and the convention center as being worthy of funding.

“We have an obligation to ourselves and to others to make Tulsa more than just any other city. These facilities and what they offer residents is what makes Tulsa our home,” said Patrick.

The city would fund Improve Our Tulsa through a renewal of a .95% temporary sales tax already in place.

For a more detailed breakdown of where funds would go, click here. To view a sample ballot, visit Oklahoma’s voter portal.

Early voting begins Thursday, Aug. 3. Election day is Tuesday, Aug. 8.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.