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Comments from Commissioner Keith Hall, Ward 4
All I know is what I read in the papers. Unfortunately, Will Rogers had it right when he made this statement. Most folks are not close enough to the issues that we see in our newspapers to have the complete story. Like Will Rogers, I am no different for most issues as well.

Too often, whether on purpose or by accident, there are omissions of facts, misstatements, or completely erroneous information published in editorials and letters to the editor. If we take sides on an issue based on the limited information we gain from reading the paper or listening to one side, we might be taking a position that would be completely opposite than if we knew all the facts.

As most folks are aware, the City of Shawnee is currently working hard to negotiate a payment-in-lieu-of-tax agreement with the CPN. These agreements, whether formal or informal, exist between other tribes and cities in Oklahoma (including Tecumseh). Over the last several weeks, I have read several guest editorials and letters to the editor that were certainly one sided and that did not provide the complete story. Perhaps I know this only because I am one of the seven City Commissioners who are working hard to do what we believe is in the best interest for all of our citizens and not just a select few.

Since I am directly involved in this particular issue, I have had the opportunity to meet and ask questions with an extremely reputable legal firm who specializes in this type of law. I also have had the opportunity to read several Federal Court legal citations and think about this issue for many months now. So with this in mind, I would like to offer my opinion on what I believe to be incorrect or misleading statements that I have read over past few weeks.

First and foremost, the City is not trying to tax any tribe or invade its sovereignty. The United States Supreme Court has NOT ruled Tribal Nations are exempt from having to collect and remit taxes from sales to non-tribal members. On the contrary, it has said that the collection and remittance is required, that it is not a limit on tribal sovereignty, and that while normal efforts to force the Tribal Nations to pay are not available, other remedies do exist. One of these is to reach an agreement, which is what the City is attempting to do. The Tribal Nations have not disputed the finding that collection and remittance is required; instead, they have insisted that no one can make them carry out that obligation.

Another past editorial in one of our local papers stated that remittance of the tax will put the Tribal Nations at an economic disadvantage. I have not read nor heard any sound logic for this argument. One could make a very strong argument that this would put them on equal economic status with other commercial retail operations, but certainly not at a disadvantage.

I have also read that the city is against Tribal economic development and is trying to punish the Tribal Nations. This cannot be further from the truth. We are very supportive of economic development. Job creation is very appealing to the City and we would welcome the opportunity to work with the tribes in this endeavor. We are only expecting to receive the tax for retail sales to non-tribal members for the stores that are in the City limits.

It has also been stated on a few different occasions that Trust Land is not in Shawnee City limits. The land in trust south of the river was annexed prior to its becoming trust land, some over 50 years ago. Simply placing land in Tribal Trust does not take the land out of the State, the County, nor the City.

More than one editorial suggested that the money we spend for legal fees will take years to be paid back if we cannot come to agreement and we continue the argument in Federal Court. This is not the case at all. Independent research conducted several years ago estimated Shawnee was losing $350,000 to $750,000 per year in tax collections due to sales affiliated with one Tribal grocery store in our City. It could even be higher now. We will certainly be very conservative in our legal expenditures, but as you can see the potential payback is very quick.

I have read that the City has refused to provide information requested by the Tribal Nations. We have provided all of the requested information that we have in our possession. The information that was requested was also irrelevant to subject.

The City’s offer to meet to negotiate was sincere. We do not desire to litigate this matter but rather would like an amicable solution to the Supreme Court decision holding that tribes are supposed to remit the tax from those that are not tribal members.

These are just a few examples of where the complete story has not been told. As Shawnee grows, and for residents to have the services they need, our budget will continue to grow each year. While sales taxes have resumed growth after some difficult years, the growth has not kept up with the budget needs. Money is needed to continue to provide our citizens the level of services they expect and deserve. Government operations are funded only by sales tax, permit fees and court fines. There is no property tax to fund police, fire, emergency response, parks, code enforcement, animal control, street repairs and other services our citizens require. When city government does not pursue lost revenues in the amount of $350,000 to $750,000 per year, a disservice is done to all of our citizens.

Commission Keith Hall, Ward 4



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