History TulsaNow evolved from a small group of citizens frustrated by the failure of revitalization referendums. Hoping to influence the process, these individuals began organizing monthly meetings and created an electronic mailing list.
“TulsaNow’s Mission is to help Tulsa become the most vibrant, diverse, sustainable and prosperous city of our size. We achieve this by focusing on the development of Tulsa’s distinctive identity and economic growth around a dynamic, urban core, complemented by a constellation of livable, thriving communities.”
- To achieve our Mission through:
- Providing information and guidance to citizens and civic leaders alike on key, strategic and topical issues;
- Encouraging and stimulating thoughtful, public discourse on those issues;
- Providing forums within which discussion may thrive;
- Participation: seeking ‘a place at the table’.
Our Core Values
TulsaNow believes the following are essential to achieving our Mission:
- A vibrant, walkable Downtown and revitalized, core neighborhoods at the heart of a regional strategy;
- Diversity (of people, cultures, the built environment, and economic base);
- Sustainable environmental and economic development policies;
- Prosperity of all citizens in all walks of life, in terms of material opportunities, livability of neighborhoods, and civic amenities;
- The role of Design – at all levels – in the physical planning and shaping of our collective future;
- Respect, civility and genuine engagement with all points of view.
TulsaNow will promote awareness of issues we consider important through:
- Public meetings hosted by TulsaNow; Advocacy at key, civic events; Our website;
- Offering guidance to Councilors, Commissioners and candidates for elective office;
- Working alongside other, complementary, citizen groups;
- The media.
TulsaNow: from whence it came
In February 2001, a precursor of TulsaNow was formed as a result of a conversation between four concerned citizens – Karen Keith, Linda Frazier, Marilyn Inhofe-Tucker and Roger Randle. Like others in the community, they expressed concern about the future of Tulsa and exasperation that voters had twice rejected major reinvigoration projects.
Randle stated his concern that “Tulsa was not bad enough to fix and that it would gracefully decay over time.” The four were discouraged that two recent Tulsa projects had failed – while acknowledging that neither was perfect. It was time, they reasoned, to bring together people from all areas and levels of the city to “get something going.” That day they put together a short list and soon started inviting people. On April 10, 2001 about 15 Tulsans who shared these concerns met in the living room of Linda Frazier’s home.
Wendy Thomas, at that time Executive Director of the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa, brought flip chart and her keen abilities to effectively organize a disparate group. By default and later by acclamation she became the group’s “facilitator.”
This small cluster of concerned citizens brainstormed about “Where have we come from?”, “Where are we now?” and “Where are we going?” Randle gave a brief history of the past two Tulsa Plans, and in short order a series of ideas began to develop for ways to develop an action plan.
From that meager beginning a concept for action took off. Early meetings involved learning about what was really going on in our city. Developers, newspaper reporters, members of the Tulsa Development Authority, and others were invited to discuss both current situation and potential options.
The early organization purposely remained loose as early members reached out for others who shared similar interests. A name for the group, suggested by Larry Silvey, was adopted at an early meeting. “While we are concerned about the future of Tulsa, now is the only time we have to do anything about anything,” he said.
Karen Keith, who initially acted as program developer, arranged for TulsaNow’s first public event, a one-day bus trip to Tulsa’s urban neighbor at the other end of the Turner Turnpike, Oklahoma City. Those on the bus included motivated members as well as a contingent of politicos gearing up for the upcoming mayoral race. Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humprheys and other major players in that city’s successful MAPS redevelopment plan provided an all day red-carpet tour. Discussion on the way home reflected no small amount of envy about what Oklahoma City had accomplished with its revitalized brick town and new baseball stadium, canal, and new museum etc. But there was also a sense of new resolve that with strong citizen input, a new beginning could be generated in Tulsa.
While the OKC hosts did not hide its bragging rights, Humphrey and others were encouraging. Of particular resonance was a statement made by the mayor that Tulsa had so many amenities that Oklahoma City doesn’t – trees, a real river, rolling hills, and people who give their fortunes back to the city. Oklahoma City, he said, was so bad when they began their process that it had nowhere else to go but up! He also hinted that one way to achieve success was to get members of Tulsa’s leadership to quit fighting among themselves.
Soon after that bus trip, TulsaNow decided to put together a bus trip in Tulsa’s own downtown area – a neighborhood of particular concern to the original group. It was another big hit. LeAnne Ziegler of the Tulsa Foundation For Architecture provided a map and description of each site – which included The Tribune Lofts, Greenwood area, OSU-Tulsa, and TulsaNow member Jamie Jamieson’s Village at Central Park development. While the untimely economic downturn at Williams Companies prevented a subsequent and similar “CEO” tour, Karen Keith delivered packets of information to several CEOs along with the final mayoral candidates.
TulsaNow co-sponsored with Tulsa Opera the first-of-its-kind Mayoral Forum on the Arts at the Performing Arts Center. A packed room of more than 200 area residents heard chief finalists Bill LaFortune and Gary Watts address specific arts and downtown related questions. Watts, a longtime civic leader and former city councilman, said that it was the most energetic forum that the candidates had attended.
TulsaNow also turned to the task of research. TulsaNow stalwart Joan Seay’s Urban Models Task Force sought models from other urban areas, ultimately publishing two documents on guidelines that have been successful in “creating a vibrant downtown” and other areas. Those documents are just a click away at Downtown Revitalization Planning Resource and Regional Competitiveness Planning Resource.
Larry Silvey, the group’s original wordsmith, created the original logo and compiled the first summary of goals. He also recruited TulsaNow Webmaster Rex Brown, who single-handedly created the informative and ever-improving www.TulsaNow.org web site and ran the site up until 2007.
Several members of our group – Rodger Randle, Karen Keith, Linda Frazier, Wendy Thomas, Marilyn Inhofe-Tucker, and Larry Silvey among several others – played instrumental roles in the planning, implementation, and final report publication of the highly successful Mayor’s Vision Summit July 2002.
On a cold and rainy night in October 2002, TulsaNow staged a brash, successful and fun event called the Battle of the Plans on the University of Tulsa campus. More than 200 citizens, along with TV-crews, braved the weather as ten plans were presented – with major logistical help from Rex Brown. So successful was the event – which included exhibits around the room, that the City-County Vision 2025 organizers adopted the exhibition idea for a larger event held at the fairgrounds.
As the Vision 2025 vote drew close, TulsaNow debated among its members the evolution of the process as well as the final 4-part package. The organization helped break a hesitancy for actual public debate by staging an open discussion of the issues between those both pro and con at Harwelden, moderated by KWGS veteran Rich Fisher. While TulsaNow at first formed a nonaligned, neutral stance, straw polls conducted at both the Harwelden event and on line were firmly in favor of the Vision 2025 package. As a result of these votes and further discussion, TulsaNow came out firmly in favor of the proposals.
TulsaNow continued to evolve, and the public forums and website continued to expand and evolve. In 2008, TulsaNow began “DowntownLive!” a completely grassroots downtown education and marketing project. In early 2009 TulsaNow launched an all new website and forum incorporating areas for advocacy articles and adapting to the huge volume of traffic TulsaNow.org sees on a daily basis.
2010 found us working closing with PlaniTulsa and the small area plans as they were assembled and completed. We also mourned the passing of one of our members and long-time supporters, Rex Ball.
In 2011 we celebrated our 10th anniversary and hosted a public forum focusing on the debate between the City Manager and Strong Mayor form of governments featuring the former Mayors of Tulsa and OKC speaking in support of each method. We also launched “Talk Trash Tulsa” a simple informative program discussing upcoming changes to Tulsa’s residential trash system. DowntownLive! was combined with a city-lead marketing effort and became the official Downtown Tulsa website, DowntownTulsaOK.com.
2012 has seen us becoming a key voice in the debate over Vision2, the first tax initiative proposed to follow Vision2025. We also started a new program focusing on educating the citizens about zoning and land use issues which will be announced soon.
If you are interested in being a part of creating a better Tulsa, more livable, dynamic and economically viable city and region, we invite you to become a member of TulsaNow. You can make a positive difference: come aboard and help TulsaNow create Tulsa’s future from the roots up.