Ten of thirteen Smart Growth Tulsa Advisory Board Members recently assembled for an all-day planning retreat at the picturesque lake home of Jamie Jamieson and Kathy Henry. Left to right, are Amber Whitlatch, John McNulty, John Griffin, Terry Young, Jamie Jamieson, Bill Leighty, Jonathan Belzley, Ray Pearcey, Craig Immel and Carlos Moreno who provided these photos. Not shown are Ann Patton, Katie Plohocky, and Shawn Schaefer who were unable to attend. Please visit our Advisory Board Page for profiles and background information on these bright and talented community leaders and volunteers.
Many thanks to Jamie and Kathy for hosting the first ever of what we hope to make an annual event. Situated on a beautiful lake keystone acreage just 25 minutes from downtown Tulsa, the old-world charm and design of their inviting home was the ideal location for a relaxing but productive planning session that celebrated past growth and accomplishments while planning for 2016 and beyond.
It was a great atmosphere to celebrate a successful year in 2015 that saw our organization grow and prosper. The number of people subscribed to our Newsletter nearly doubled and we added over two thousand new followers on Facebook.
We are convinced that our blog posts and Facebook discussions had a major impact on important policy decisions being considered by our elected officials, including the zoning code update and planned low-water dams in Bixby and Sand Springs, proposed commercial developments on Turkey Mountain and at 71st and Riverside, and the crafting of a potential $600 million Vision 2025 extension package. We also introduced a first ever in Oklahoma participatory budgeting process through an on-line survey, providing average Tulsans a voice in public spending. And of course, every day we post third party content on our Facebook page that details the best practices other cities are employing to gain a competitive advantage.
SGT has big plans for 2016. During the retreat we considered organizational and governance strategies that will guide us in the future, including board structure, revenue and fundraising, volunteer recruitment and affiliate memberships. After that we reviewed the global, national, and regional factors that affect us locally and create the environment in which we operate.
We discussed policy priorities including transportation, land use, public safety, climate change and disaster preparedness, education and the cultivation of true participatory governance and democracy in our community. We also reviewed various marketing, social media and branding strategies, utilizing a speakers’ bureau, public forums and open meetings, and offering more original content on our blog. All of these discussions revolve around our commitment to serve you and your fellow Tulsans, by helping build a more competitive, resilient and sustainable city.
Every person who reads this post and even those who don’t, has a stake how we grow. Because the way we build our cities, streets and neighborhoods affects every aspect of our lives. It impacts our physical and mental well-being. It determines how many people, homes, jobs and businesses are allowed within a given space. It determines how much revenue we can raise and how our tax dollars are spent. It impacts our independence and mobility. Whether your focus is on improving health, building community, growing the economy, aging with dignity, creating safe spaces for kids, promoting sustainability–or all of the above–the principles of Smart Growth matter.
Smart Growth is about efficiency. It’s about making our cities more livable, sustainable and economically viable. But mostly, it’s about choice. It’s about the freedom to choose from a variety of options, and we now enjoy an updated zoning code that insures these options are well within our reach. That means redevelopment of older areas of Tulsa where we can increase the tax base and deliver services more efficiently by increasing density and maximizing the use of wasted space and empty parking lots.
Imagine a city where physical activity is a normal part of your daily life. Where streets are safe and appealing for both pedestrians and cyclists; where rigid zoning codes don’t prevent people from living near the places where they work and shop; and where a functional transit system offers freedom from the economic burdens of car ownership.
Imagine inviting parks and green space within walking distance of every home, where kids and adults can play, enjoy nature and reap the health benefits of stress-relief and community engagement. And imagine the benefits of an increased tax base, with more jobs and people helping fund quality-of-life improvements throughout the city of Tulsa.
Imagine a city where elected officials understand that it would be more cost effective to incentivize growth in underperforming areas where the infrastructure already exists so that we are not required to spend all our money on patching potholes, widening roads, and extending police, fire, water, sewer, and trash services to an ever larger area.
In closing we want to thank each and every one of you for your tireless activism and support. We are truly humbled to be on this path with you and your encouragement has us filled with great anticipation for what can be accomplished in 2016. From all of us, to all of you, Happy Holidays and best wishes for a very Prosperous New Year!