April Editorial Winner

Does Claremore really want a war?

JOHN M. WYLIE, II Oologah Lake Leader

Claremore's Chamber of Commerce just came out against renewal of the penny sales tax for county roads when voters go to the polls May 14.
Does Claremore really want a war with the rest of the county, whose residents outnumber city residents by a margin of almost 4-1?
Does the Chamber really want to extort funds from the county for city streets, even though the Attorney General has ruled that this would be illegal?
Do the Claremore merchants who make up the chamber realize that while they may collect 50 percent of the sales taxes in the county, Claremore city residents don't provide nearly that much?
In short, does Claremore really want a war? The chamber is griping about money available to the city. Perhaps the city should first learn to manage the money it has.
It could start by figuring out how to use its "new" city water plant, which won't be paid off for many years. The plant has never worked, has sat idle for years, and is not part of the $45.5 million the city's engineer says is needed to provide reliable water service.
The existing plant has broken down twice in the past few months, forcing the city to beg residents not to use water.
The Chamber doesn't want to talk about that.
Nor does it acknowledge that its proposal for the county "to work with the City of Claremore, using county road tax funds, to address critical road projects inside the city limits" was ruled blatantly illegal five years ago by the Oklahoma Attorney General.
Don't take our word for it. AG Opinion No. 2008-9 is available on the state court website, OSCN.net, in the legal research section.
It concludes, "A county may not lawfully enter into an agreement with a municipality with a population in excess of 15,000 requiring the expenditure of county funds to assist in the building and/or repair and/or maintenance for any part of the project that is located within the city limits..."
We wonder how many Chamber members know that? We wonder how many would remain members if they knew their board had issued a written statement putting the chamber on record as demanding that the city and county violate state law. We doubt there are many.
Claremore's city manager loves to brag about the 55,000 people in his fenceline. We wonder if the 35,000 who live in the fenceline but outside the city limits also know that the county road tax builds, maintains and plows their roads.
And we wonder how many will continue to shop in Claremore when they find out the city wants to steal that tax money. After all, Owasso, Vinita, Pryor and Tulsa are always available.
Losing business to other cities is what the chamber says it wants to avoid by opposing the tax. Starting a war is sure a bad way of doing it.
We don't want a war with Claremore, because the city and county working together make the entire county a better place to live.
But if city residents want to put the Kim Jong-un faction of city leadership in charge and rattle a nuclear-tipped saber, that's their business. When it results in war, they can't say they weren't warned.
We urge the Claremore Chamber board to withdraw its recommendation.

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