Some not-so-ancient history and a look ahead: Oklahoma City’s public meetings on potential Maps4 projects
Published: June 24th, 2019
The Oklahoma City Council has called a series of special public meetings in July and August to hear presentations on potential MAPS 4 projects.
According to a press release sent to CapitolBeatOK, The City Sentinel, and other news organizations, “the meetings are open to everyone and will be broadcast live on Channel 20, and on YouTube, with recordings later posted to the City’s YouTube Channel.”
The meetings will begin on the dates indicated (and focused on the listed subjects) at 9 a.m. in the Council Chamber on the third floor of City Hall, 200 N. Walker, Avenue. The dates and subjects are:
• Tuesday, July 9
◦ Sidewalks, bike lanes, trails, streetlights
◦ Freedom Center
• Thursday, July 11
◦ Youth centers
◦ State Fair coliseum
◦ Senior wellness centers
◦ Animal shelter
• Wednesday, July 31
◦ Chesapeake Arena & NBA enhancements
◦ Diversion hub
• Tuesday, Aug. 6
◦ Mental health
◦ Multipurpose stadium
◦ Innovation District
◦ Other projects brought forward by Councilmembers
◦ Overview of format, timing, revenue estimates, sustainable design, 1% for art
“The Council and I are anxious to enter this next phase of the process, and to explore the potential projects in more depth,” said Mayor David Holt.
“The finalizing of the projects being presented is definitely a milestone in this journey, and I’m very excited about the things we’re considering. I believe they really reflect this community’s dreams for its future. From the beginning, we all set out to have a very inclusive and transparent MAPS 4 process. It started with the ideas solicitation last fall, and it continues with these public meetings this summer.
“This is an exciting time in Oklahoma City, a time we get to chart our City’s course for the next decade. The people of OKC are walking every step of this process with us, and I invite all people in OKC to continue the journey.”
The Mayor, who was elected in 2018 (http://city-sentinel.com/2018/02/15586/), and the City Council will schedule groups and City staff to make presentations about the potential project ideas. The special meetings follow the Mayor and Council’s invitation last fall for residents to share their MAPS 4 ideas. Mayor Holt summarized several ideas and shared his vision early this year in his annual State of the City address (https://capitolbeatok.worldsecuresystems.com/reports/mayor-holt-looks-at-a-maps-endowment-candidates-give-positive-feedback-city-tax-revenue-continues-to).
Like regular Council meetings, residents attending the special meetings may sign up to speak about agenda items or make general comments. Comments are generally limited to three minutes.
After presentations at the special meetings, the Council will discuss a potential project list at the regular Council meetings that follow.
The MAPS sessions come as local sales tax receipts remain robust (increasing month-over-month in 23 of the last 24 months). (http://city-sentinel.com/2019/06/oklahoma-city-sales-tax-collections-climb-in-newest-report-penalty-reductions-for-city-citations-offered/)
Some MAPS history
If finalized by the City Council and approved by city voters, MAPS 4 would take effect upon the expiration of the “Better Streets, Safer City” (http://city-sentinel.com/2017/09/cornett-and-norick-lead-citizens-for-a-better-okc/ ) temporary one-cent sales tax that’s helping to fund nearly $800 million in street repairs across Oklahoma City. That tax expires at the end of March 2020.
As now envisioned, MAPS 4 would leave the current Oklahoma City sales tax rate of 4.125 percent unchanged. Including state sales tax, the overall sales tax rate in most of OKC is 8.625 percent (8.975 percent in Canadian County and 8.875 percent in Cleveland County because of county sales taxes).
The genesis of the MAPS concept dates to the late 1980s, when civic leaders were jolted by an airline’s choice of another city for a maintenance hub because its employees didn’t want to live in Oklahoma City. In response, residents were persuaded to raise taxes on themselves to finance infrastructure improvements concentrated in the downtown area. However, those taxes were predicated on the “pay-as-you-go” ideas – avoiding debt financing – which had long been abandoned in most big U.S. cities.
The original MAPS vote in December 1993, spearheaded by then-Mayor Ron Norick, funded Bricktown Ballpark, the canal, a convention center, the arena, Civic Center Music Hall improvements, State Fair Park upgrades, the Ron Norick downtown library, the Oklahoma River’s early modern developments, and the Spirit trolleys.
The first MAPS ultimately raised $309 million, plus an extra $54 million in interest also used to fund construction. The original MAPS also had a use tax, which was deposited into a maintenance fund for the projects.
Former Mayor Kirk Humphreys managed and led a successful special referendum campaign (in late 1998) to extend the original tax by six months. With voter approval, all of the original MAPS projects were completed on time (https://www.okc.gov/government/archives-records/oklahoma-city-history/previous-mayors/kirk-humphreys).
MAPS for Kids raised hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure in local public schools
The MAPS for Kids vote in 2001 funded improvements to every public school site in the Oklahoma City district, including 70 new or renovated school buildings.
MAPS for Kids emerged from the KIDS (Keep Improving District Schools) Project, the historic broad-based coalition of civic leaders who advocated creation of a tax stream dedicated to improvements for local schools.
Ultimately limited mostly to infrastructure issues due to legal limitations and political realities, the referenda gained solid approval from voting citizens (https://capitolbeatok.worldsecuresystems.com/reports/commentary-remembering-hannah-atkins).
Before that outcome, then-Mayor Humphreys had fused the MAPS vision of “pay-as-you” financing (as opposed to debt) with a proposal that touched every public school in the City District, while also providing resources to neighboring districts which educated children residing in the City.
MAPS for Kids was crafted nearly two decades ago. Its organizers and designers did not anticipate the recent closure of many of the schools with improved physical plants (http://city-sentinel.com/2011/04/maps-for-kids-renovations-complete-at-edwards-elementary/).
In September 2001, after a campaign guided by Humphreys, voters enacted the largest local-level tax hike dedicated to public education in the history of Oklahoma.
Understanding the impact of MAPS
A key player in the MAPS for Kids effort was Larkin Warner, an Oklahoma State University economist (http://city-sentinel.com/2011/10/wall-of-fame-honors-city-public-school-alumni-and-project-kids-economist/) who was a leader in both Project KIDS and the subsequent campaign for school infrastructure funding. Dr. Warner’s economic impact analysis of the impact of MAPS programs through 2009 can be studied here (https://www.greateroklahomacity.com/clientuploads/pdf/MAPS_Impact_Study_Executive_Summary.pdf).
Warner wrote the definitive history of the KIDS program, published by First Circle Books in 2009.
His analyses of all of the early MAPS programs are indispensable for a detailed understanding of the history of the MAPS concept.
Of the $700 million raised by the MAPS for Kids program, about $470 million was used for construction projects, $52 million for technology projects, $9 million for bus fleet replacement and $153 million for projects in 23 suburban districts serving OKC students. Additionally, the MAPS for Kids use tax funded public safety fleet replacement.
MAPS for Kids was completed during the tenure of former Mayor Mick Cornett (https://www.okc.gov/government/archives-records/oklahoma-city-history/previous-mayors/mick-cornett).
MAPS 3 sketched
MAPS 3 was guided to success by then-Mayor Cornett, who served in the city’s top elective post from 2004 to 2018 (the longest tenure in Oklahoma history.)
Voters approved the plan presented by Cornett and the City Council in 2009.
MAPS 3 raised about $805 million, well above the anticipated $777 million because of Oklahoma City’s strong economy. Its projects are Scissortail Park, RIVERSPORT Rapids, other River improvements, the Bennett Even Center at State Fair Park, the streetcar system, Senior Health & Wellness Centers, the new Convention Center, trails and sidewalks.
The MAPS 3 use tax, like the MAPS for Kids use tax, funded public safety fleet replacement.
MAPS 3 sales tax collections ended Dec. 31, 2017, with the current “Better Streets, Safer City” one-cent sales tax taking effect the next day.
The Better Streets, Safer City use tax also funds public safety fleet replacement.
Today, every MAPS 3 project is either already finished or is under construction.
NOTE: Pat McGuigan, founder of CapitolBeatOK.com and publisher of The City Sentinel newspaper, contributed to this report. As a commentator, he advocated for the original MAPS program Mayor Ron Norick (https://www.okc.gov/government/archives-records/oklahoma-city-history/previous-mayors/ron-norick) and the City Council designed and sent to voters. McGuigan also worked as a volunteer for the KIDS Project, a program of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation, helping to lay the basis for what became the MAPS for Kids campaign.