Last Tuesday, Tulsa voters elected Vic Regalado as sheriff in a special election and passed all four sales tax proposals. County-wide, all Vision proposals were passed, and most passed by 60 to 70 percent.
This passage means the sales tax will remain at its current levels. For further examination of the proposals and candidates for sheriff that were voted on, refer to Hannah Kloppenburg’s news article on pg. 6.
Vic Regalado has very little time to celebrate his success, as filing for the regular election is next week. The primaries begin on June 28.
This election allows Regalado to replace Stanley Glanz, who resigned under fire for various scandals last year. But with the general elections in a little over two months, how important is this victory?
This election of sheriff only filled Glanz’s vacant position in the time before the general election.
Regalado will soon have to continue his campaign to win the general election, which will distract from his new job.
Questionable campaign donations also taint Regalado’s victory. With the previous sheriff resigning due to campaign and donation controversies, among other things, Tulsa deserves a sheriff without such questions.
About $42,000 of Regalado’s campaign funds are linked to ISTI Plant Services, a Rogers County business involved in manufacturing and assembling equipment for oil and gas industries.
These donations all came from employees of the company or their spouses/housemates. Several of the employees were in leadership positions, and most donations were close to the maximum contribution.
Regalado has said he would not allow these donors to become command staff under his administration, but didn’t say whether they could be “advanced reserve” deputies like Robert Bates, who killed an unarmed man last April.
He also welcomed investigation into the donations. Donations of such large amounts by a company may be common in many campaigns, but each time such a company donates large amounts, they raise questions of impropriety and buying influence.
Regalado being open to investigation, however, does help to soothe worries, which will be valued after the controversies during Glanz’s tenure.
The success of the Vision proposals shows that the people of Oklahoma are willing to forgo lower sales taxes for better community services. This response shouldn’t be ignored by those on the state level. Since the early 2000s, income tax levels in Oklahoma have decreased, especially for top income earners.
Lowering taxes, according to most legislators, will help bring companies and jobs to the state.
But this lowering of taxes has contributed to the state’s budget issues, as it represents lost potential revenue for a state that has overpopulated prisons and one of the worst ranked educational systems in the country.
Yet voters in Tulsa indicated they would be willing to keep the current sales tax rate for increased public safety and transportation, improved infrastructure and assorted economic projects. This decision indicates that voters feel businesses won’t be scared away by higher taxes, but that they might be scared away by the current conditions of the city.
The proposals all work to fix issues of the city that make it unappealing or unsafe, at least according to city council. By adding transit routes, the city hopes to make the lives of public transit users easier.
Not all have been supportive of the proposals. Citizens for a Better Vision opposed the tax on multiple grounds.
The packaging of the proposals meant voters couldn’t support only one idea; they either voted for development issues or nothing at all. North Tulsa also factored into many people’s complaints against vision; they felt the North side was not receiving projects that would bring economic development. Instead, they viewed projects such as parking garages as potential nuisances.
The success of the Vision projects, especially in the North side, will be have to be seen in the coming years.
While the Vision proposals are not without their flaws, their success suggests that slight tax increases are possible in the state if they are clearly tied to improvements. In the future, separating proposals might tease out what Tulsans, and Oklahomans in general, believe are worth higher taxes.
The success of the Vision projects will also factor into this, because if the projects do not bring in the expected jobs or revenue, or if there are too many issues or delays, people may become disillusioned with the government’s ability to use their tax dollars well.