Listen below to hear Councilor Jack Henderson profess his love for river development

My name is on this blog, but today this space belongs to Jack Henderson.

The District 1 city councilor has never been at a loss for words, but seldom has he spoken as forcefully and, dare I say, as courageously as he did Monday night.

Speaking before a skeptical crowd of constituents gathered at Rudisill Regional Library to hear about the latest river-development proposal, Henderson took on the naysayers who had stood to question how north Tulsa would benefit from building dams in the Arkansas River.

“When I heard and saw the real vision for the river, a light bulb came on and I realized that the river is not in north Tulsa, that’s right,” Henderson said. “But the money that is going to be generated by that attraction is going to be sales tax dollars that is going to help fix roads in north Tulsa, it’s going to do some other things for north Tulsa.”

Then came this: “So I am in love with the river development now. I think it is probably the greatest thing that has ever happened to Tulsa. I am for it 100 percent.”

It was amazing —  and ironic —  to hear, because for years Henderson had used the same arguments to rally opposition to big dollar, publicly funded river-development proposals that his constituents were now directing at him.

Yet here he was telling them that he had been wrong —  and, by extension, so were they.

Peggy Burgess expresses her opposition to the proposed $298 million river-development package Monday at Rudisill Regional Library. KEVIN CANFIELD/The Frontier

Peggy Burgess expresses her opposition to the proposed $298 million river-development package Monday at Rudisill Regional Library.

The essence of speakers’ concerns Monday was that North Tulsa has needs—  parks, police, jobs and grocery stores, to name a few —  that putting water in the Arkansas River won’t help meet.

Henderson had heard all those arguments before, of course, because he’d made them all himself.
But that was before his conversion.

After visiting several cities that have bet and won on the power of building neat attractions, including river development, to revive their downtowns and boost their economies, the city’s longest-serving city councilor had become a believer.

“They captured something,” he told the crowd. “One thing can turn the whole thing around.”

Tuesday morning Henderson said his support for the construction of dams in the Arkansas River goes back to the 2012 Vision2 proposal, but only now has he gained a full appreciation of what the infrastructure could mean to the city.

“I saw the light,” he said.

Dam Proposal: Construct or overhaul low-water dams in Sand Springs, Tulsa, south Tulsa/Jenks and Bixby.

Cost: $298 million

Funding: Use half of 0.06 percent Vision 2025 sales tax that expires at the end of 2016. Tax would be paid by residents in all four communities.
The other half of the tax would be used to fund other community projects.

Duration of river tax: Estimated 11 years

How the proposal was prepared: The Arkansas River Infrastructure Task Force has spent the last year and a half coming up with a River development proposal.
Task force members included representatives of the city of Tulsa, Tulsa County, the Creek Nation, River Parks and several surrounding communities.

NOTE: Task Force Chairman G.T. Bynum has stressed that the proposal is not set and will be modified to reflect public comments received at town hall meetings.

Two town hall meetings remain. Each begins at 6 p.m.

June 29 – Jewish Federation of Tulsa, 2021 E. 71 St.

July 1 – Perkins Family Auditorium, OU-Tulsa Learning Center, 4502 E. 41st St.