Police, fire union officials join call for passage of all parts of Vision package

Seal of Tulsa

City officials along with representatives of the police and fire unions stood together Tuesday to urge voters to pass all parts of the Vision Tulsa package.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 93 President Clay Ballenger said adding police officers via the public-safety ballot proposition goes “hand in hand” with other Vision ballot items because they all would help with recruiting.

Residents will vote on the sales-tax proposals April 5.

Proposition 1, a permanent public-safety tax, would add about 170 police, 65 firefighters, 911 personnel and support other capital needs.

“This would allow us to hire almost 200 police officers over the next few years,” Ballenger said. “We can’t do that without these other pieces of Vision Tulsa that are so important.”

Ballenger’s comments came at a news conference near the Tulsa Police Department’s Riverside Division station, where he and Chad Miller, president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 176, each endorsed the entire Vision Tulsa package.

Mayor Dewey Bartlett, County Commissioner Karen Keith and City Councilors Karen Gilbert and Anna America all spoke in support of various public-safety projects at the news conference, a recurring event to address each of the many pieces in Vision Tulsa.

Largely, the point of the news conference was that public safety is included in more than just the public-safety proposition to add emergency personnel.

Officials pointed toward the public schools safety project in economic development, proper street striping to prevent wrecks in the transportation proposition and levee rehabilitation in the river corridor project.

Ballenger pointed to the economic-development arm of the Vision package, in particular, as needed to improve TPD recruitment.

“Police officers are no different than anyone else,” Ballenger said. “When we’re recruiting them to live here and work here, they look for the same things: safe streets, sidewalks, crosswalks to help the students get to and from school safely.”

Last year, the police department struggled to fill a 30-recruit academy without enough applications from candidates. Officials at the time said there just weren’t enough people interested in moving to Tulsa.

Proposition 3 is a $511 million request geared toward economic development, including low-water dams and other Arkansas River corridor development, education capital items, Gilcrease Museum expansion and a long list of other projects.

“Our families look for those same activities,” Ballenger said. “So as we go out and try to recruit these 200 more officers, that economic development piece is key to not only bringing more jobs to Tulsa from outside the police department but just to get those police officers here to do the job.”

The total package is a 0.55 percent sales tax that would be renewed from Vision 2025’s expiring 0.6 percent tax. It would be expected to raise $884.1 million over 15 years.