For the past 21 months the Tulsa County Board of County Commissioners has been focused on the countywide effects of the pandemic to individuals, families, small businesses, and government services. While we certainly are not back to the life before the pandemic, much progress has been made to restore, rebuild, and recover from the dramatic impacts of the countywide public health emergency.
As we look ahead on what we can expect and plan for in 2022, there are many opportunities before us.
We will continue to allocate the $63 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds which we received last May. Then, in May of 2022, we will receive another $63 million of ARPA funds. With the hopes that the most immediate needs of the community and businesses from the pandemic will have been addressed by the spring, Tulsa County will turn its attention to the capital improvements which can be funded with this second tranche of ARPA funds.
Some of the important capital needs we hope to address in 2022 are: (1) repairs to the County Courthouse; (2) possible relocation of the Tulsa County Election Board to provide better services in a larger and healthier environment; (3) county road and bridge repairs that have been delayed; and (4) possible expansion of broadband services to county facilities . Other capital improvement needs may also be included.
In addition to being good stewards of our public facilities and being watchful on the continuing impacts of the pandemic, we will turn our attention to the next legislative session, set to begin in February, 2022.
The main piece of legislation which we will be supporting is the County Modernization Act. County governments are still beholding to the approval of the legislature when it comes to providing new and better county services and programs. Unlike cities which can self – govern and managing their own internal affairs, counties are still seen as an extension of state government. Hence the approval of the Legislature is required for even the most mundane expansion or creation of modern services.
The current requirement, when a county wants to improve operations, is if there is no current law which allows it, then the answer is NO, the county can’t do it. This stifles innovation, creativity, responsiveness, and modernization of government.
The County Modernization Act would state that unless there is a law which prohibits what a county wants to do to improve its operation, then the Board of County Commissioners can approve new initiatives, policies, and programs. Every state around Oklahoma allows their counties this governing independence and its time Oklahoma did as well.
This past year has placed county government in a leadership role previously not seen by the citizens of Tulsa County. Thanks to the outstanding county personnel and the commitment by the Commissioners to step up when needed, county government enters 2022 ready to continue to serve the citizens of Tulsa County.