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Voters to decide OKC Bond / MAPS tax proposals this September

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Oklahoma City voters will decide on a slate of proposals on September 12.
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Voters will decide the fate of a slate of municipal projects on September 12. The Oklahoma City Council approved three proposals involving more than $1.2 billion for streets, sidewalks, public safety and other day-to-day operations. The three proposals include a ten-year, $967 million bond package, a temporary, 27-month continuation of the one cent MAPS sales tax and a permanent ¼ cent sales tax dedicated to police, fire, and other critical services.

The bond package will split up the $967 million among projects improving city streets, sidewalks and bike lanes, traffic control systems, bridges, parks and recreation facilities, drainage control, libraries, transit, and other municipal improvement projects. The bonds will be paid back with property tax; however, the millage rate will remain or go below 16 mills. That rate has remained unchanged since the 1980s.

The continuation of the one-cent MAPS sales tax also appears on the ballot this fall. It would be extended for 27-months raising an estimated $240 million in revenue. It would go toward streets, sidewalks, and trails. It will follow the MAPS process by paying for the projects as they are developed.

Additionally, Oklahoma City voters will be asked to permanently raise the sales tax by a quarter of a penny. The revenue is estimated at $26 million dollars a year. The money would be prioritized for police and fire with some of the funds going to animal control, parks and transit.

The package was changed from the original proposal. The bond package remains the same, while a quarter cent of the MAPS tax was to be made permanent for police and fire, while the other ¾ penny would remain temporary and be diverted to roads and other civic capital projects.

Approval was easy for the measure, however, Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid was less than enthusiastic about the proposals.

“Very disappointed. Very ashamed of what we’re putting forth today. I was very excited about this for a long period of time. I think we are coming up very, very short,” Shadid said during Tuesday’s hearing and vote on the issues.

Shadid’s contention was the change in the proposal to instead keep the temporary MAPS penny whole and ask for a permanent ¼ cent for police and fire. He believes city leaders are being led by the wishes of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, which has run the previous MAPS campaigns and other municipal initiatives.

“If anybody wants to pass any tax initiative, or they want to present a tax initiative to the people of Oklahoma City, you must go through the Chamber of Commerce to run the campaign; to do the TV ads and the polling. Polling that only they get to see. The public doesn’t get to see. The polling, the radio ads, the whole campaign. What that does is it gives the Chamber of Commerce veto power over everything that is presented to the people of Oklahoma City,” said Shadid.

Ward 1 Councilman James Greiner also took issue with the change. He also doesn’t believe the temporary tax should have been changed to a full penny.

“Like Ed said, it is an arbitrary number. I don’t think there’s any sort of magic in the one full penny,” said Greiner.

Other members defended the change.

Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer feels the process worked.

“During that process, we listen to citizens. And we frequently make changes to what’s been introduced when we hear additional facts or when additional information comes to light,” said Salyer.

She feels the MAPS penny should be kept whole.

“It has been the single most star that has been transformational in this community over the last 25 years. Part of its magic is the penny, and part of the magic is its temporary nature. So, I think there’s a lot of validity maintaining that penny and allowing the citizens to vote on a regular basis whether or not we want to continue,” Salyer added.

Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher believes this will continue to move Oklahoma City forward as it tackles the issues it faces from the success of past capital projects.

“This is a chance for us to do something that no other city in the United States is doing. Fix the roads quickly. Make our citizens happy,” said Stonecipher.

Oklahoma City voters will have the summer to think about what direction they want the state’s capitol city to take.

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Jason Doyle Oden

Jason Doyle Oden is a proud Oklahoman. He's an experienced broadcaster and award-winning...

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