Tax Internet Purchases – most states do not charge sales taxes on purchases made over the internet. A lot more are looking at it as a possible revenue source, particularly given the current economic downturn that has most states in a fiscal bind. It may not be the most popular position, but I believe that states should charge the same sales tax on internet purchases as they do on in-store purchases. This may be the only time you hear me advocate a new tax. And, I know that there are difficulties in tracking and enforcement, but they can be overcome. From a public policy perspective, I don’t think it makes sense to favor internet purchasing over bricks and mortar purchasing. Let’s level the playing field for all retailers.
Change Oklahoma Liquor Laws – I don’t know too much about liquor laws or liquor for that matter. But, I do know that Oklahoma’s liquor laws are antiquated and from strictly a retail perspective, hurt our ability to attract a number of retailers to the state including Costco and any number of grocers. We need these retailers to provide competition to Walmart and add quality to our retail mix which would benefit the Oklahoma Consumer. Even if you are not a drinker, the goods and services these additional retailers would bring to our market would broaden our shopping choices. Our current laws favor a handful of distributors at the expense of the broader retail market and consumers. I’ll leave it up to others to figure out what an equitable system would look like, but let’s start looking at it and move in that direction.
Sandridge Energy Building – Larry Nichols, Aubrey McClendon, Tom Ward, and their respective companies have played a major role in transforming this City in the last 10 to 15 years. Unlike some of their predecessors, their time and money have more often than not been spent here, making Oklahoma City a better place. Aubrey and Chesapeake have revitalized the area around 63rd and Western, creating a beautiful campus and re-making the entire area, including retail and housing components. The office tower that Devon is now constructing is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in terms of size and grandeur. The tax increment financing district related to the project is allowing us to redo virtually all the downtown streets and streetscapes, not to mention the Myriad Gardens. Let us not forget Sandridge, the quietest of the three, who bought and is remodeling the old Kerr McGee Tower at a time when many thought it would sit vacant for years. Sandridge now wants to spend upwards of $100 million revitalizing their block on which the tower sits. The opposition to their plan is well-documented and I have no doubt that opponents to the plan are sincere and well-intended. Nonetheless, Sandridge’s plan needs to be approved without further delay and there are persuasive reasons to do so: it’s private property and unless the City has some compelling interest otherwise, private property owners should be able to have wide latitude in what they do on their property. Their use is consistent with applicable zoning and Sandridge has followed the appropriate steps to get their plan approved. In this case, the buildings Sandridge will tear down are all obsolete and have no historical significance. As to the aesthetics of their plan, we can’t have the City become the taste police. The overall outdoor design, while clearly unique to Sandridge, is not that different from what Devon is doing around their building. We have always thrived as a business friendly city; it will do us no good to start antagonizing our leading corporate citizens. Let’s get their plan approved and give Tom Ward and Sandridge the thank you they deserve for taking a stagnant block and breathing life into it.