Saturday, August 2, 2008

Infrastructure: Highways in Tulsa

The city of Tulsa is having a partly useful public conversation with itself about roads. The good news is that the city is talking and in public locales such as the front page of the morning daily, the Tulsa World. This is different from Albuquerque and New Mexico at the state level. The further good news is that the discussion is about doing things, as opposed to the standard Albuquerque/New Mexico approach of complaining about things not done such as maintenance, and in the Tulsa debate price tags are attached. The bad news is that specifics will be left to "experts" such as traffic engineers. The newest proposal, from Mayor Kathy Taylor, is to spend $451.6 million over five years. But the spending categories are only for the most general categories such as streets. (Which streets, Tulsa officials?) There also is a $270 million approach and a $2 billion, 11-year proposal that includes the city taking over street maintenance. (In very, very conservative Tulsa?)
Mayor Taylor said she backed away from the $2 billion plan because she figured the voters would not approve. Tulsa's money for all this will come from extending current "special" taxes and imposing new taxes. Well, maybe. Maybe not.
Given that Tulsa is about the same size as Albuquerque, the Tulsa debate suggests parameters of a potential Albuquerque debate.
In Albuquerque, a standard part of mayoral politics is to say that the city is way behind on capital spending—hundreds of millions. During the last campaign it dawned on me that the city functions decently well without all this "needed" spending. I think that if Tulsa officials and, gosh, New Mexico officials talked to the citizens about real and specific needs, as opposed to micro-driven and/or bureaucratic "wants," they might get a surprisingly wise response.
For the one-page spreadsheet very broadly outlining Mayor Taylor's proposal see

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