Saturday, December 6, 2008

Balkman Says Yes to Public Safety Sales Tax


Did you know there’s an election this Tuesday? This Tuesday – December 9th voters in Cleveland County will be voting on whether to pass a County Sales Tax for ¼ of a cent to be dedicated to the construction of a new county jail. I urge you to take time this weekend to learn about this proposed tax and I believe that you will agree with me that we need to support this proposal. I have included an article from The Norman Transcript that describes the proposal as well as a letter to the editor that I wrote the week before last.

Additional information about the jail proposal is available on the Cleveland County website at

From The Norman Transcript, December 3, 2009

Cleveland County voters are asked to return to the polls Tuesday to vote on a one-fourth of one-cent sales tax for a proposed $40 million detention center planned on Franklin Road, just east of U.S. 77.

County Commissioners want the proposed one quarter cent jail sales tax paid off and taken off the books as soon as possible, the board said last week.

If the sales tax is approved, a committee will oversee the monies received from the tax. The sales tax will be for 20 years but once the jail is paid for, the tax will stop.

The mayor or the mayor's designee of Norman, Moore, Noble, Lexington, Slaughterville and Oklahoma City will each appoint a member to the oversight committee. County commissioners will each appoint a member and other members will include a representative in the banking business, sheriff's office, the University of Oklahoma and a citizen at large.

The Cleveland County Detention Center was built in the 1980s to hold 177 prisoners. The center averages more than 200 prisoners and has for the past few years. The Oklahoma State Department of Health has mandated that the county fix the problem or the health department will shut down the jail or fine the county $10,000 a day.

My letter to the Editor

Let's keep our community an attractive and safe place to live, work and play by voting "Yes" on the proposed county sales tax on December 9th. The quarter cent sales tax will be used to construct and maintain a much needed new county jail here in Cleveland County. It might seem strange for this conservative Republican, who once signed a no new taxes pledge as a state legislator, to endorse a new tax. But one thing that Oklahomans of all political stripes agree on is public safety is government's most fundamental responsibility.

Norman and Cleveland County in general, enjoy a low crime rate thanks to the combined efforts of our police forces, the District Attorney's office and the web of social service and community agencies. It's no wonder Money Magazine ranked Norman as the 6th best place to live in the United States, the highest of any city in Oklahoma! It should be noted that two of the factors used in that survey were personal crime incidents and property crime incidents, and we ranked 2nd best in each category.

If we are to make sure our community is a safe desirable place to be, we must keep those who commit crimes locked up. But time is running out. Already, we have been repeatedly cited by the state numerous times for not having enough space in our county jail, and if we don't build a bigger jail we run the risk of being fined $10,000 a day by the state. Furthermore, the threat of frivolous lawsuits against the taxpayers brought by clever convicts hangs over us until we fix this problem.

Paying an extra quarter cent on the things we buy to construct a new county jail is a good investment for the continued safety and security of our community. I hope other Cleveland County residents, especially those like me who usually do not favor tax increases, will vote yes on December 9th.

Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Please vote “YES” on December 9.

Thad Balkman

General Counsel, VP External Relations

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