In the coming weeks, Oklahoma City residents should volunteer to shape how the fourth Metropolitan Area Project Plan (MAPS 4) comes into being.
From a report from Free Press on Friday, we learned that the City is looking for 50 people to fill the Citizen Advisory Board and its six subcommittees to provide oversight and how to get involved.
To guard the human need projects that defined this latest MAPS, there needs to be a groundswell of interest in steering these projects to fruition.
Only 7 percent
This would not be a matter of concern in most landslide elections, but while MAPS 4 passed Dec. 10 with an overwhelming 72 percent of the vote.
But, as Representative Jason Dunnington tweeted on the night of the election, only 7 percent of the population* in Oklahoma City voted.
“The stories tomorrow on #MAPS 4 will be about record passage,” Dunnington wrote in a Twitter post. “Few will talk about the fact that less than 7 percent of the population in #OKC cast a ballot. Absent significant change, we will continue to be a society where the few decide for the many.”
OpinionFrom George Lang, our lead opinion columnist
Now, consider how many people are willing to actively participate in, well, just about anything.
Buy-in on an election is one thing, but taking time on evenings or weekends to discuss and plan the rollout of the 16 MAPS 4 projects is another matter entirely.
Voting in a single-question election takes mere minutes, but committing to help these projects move forward takes hours and days. Free time is scarce and valuable, but apathy is abundant.
Only a few?
With this in mind, I am concerned that we will have only a few individuals who will sign up to attend meetings as these projects are prioritized.
If we are talking about small percentages of an already-small percentage of voters, the projects will be undertaken with little to no input from the residents who would benefit most from MAPS 4.
As I wrote in my Jan. 25 column, community involvement will be essential in deciding how these projects are prioritized — otherwise, human need projects like the $50 million allocated for housing the homeless or the $40 million earmarked for treatment of mental illness and addiction could be back-burnered in favor of first starting the multi-purpose stadium or the new fairgrounds coliseum.
Care for the homeless is an especially acute need in Oklahoma City, along with the connected issues of mental illness and addiction, but not everyone believes it should be a priority.
A recent series of reports on a local television news station trumpeted that many of the homeless camped throughout the metro came from other cities or regions. Similar stories have run on affiliated stations in Seattle and Austin, among others, all promulgating the idea that other cities are foisting their homeless populations on your city. Considering the people involved are homeless, this is hard to prove or disprove, and I contend that it does not matter where their last home of record was — they simply need help.
This argument is designed to create a dismissive attitude toward homelessness in every city in America, thereby forcing an inhumane game of hot potato between municipalities. Fortunately, MAPS 4 is addressing Oklahoma City’s need to house the homeless and help them get back on their feet, but it must be done sooner rather than later.
It is incumbent upon Oklahoma City’s population to get involved, and in far greater numbers than the voters on Dec. 10. Simply put, if these projects matter, it is best to be part of the eventual solution. If not, other people with different values and agendas will get the first bite at the apple.
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*Correction: The original version of this article said that seven percent of eligible voters voted for MAPS 4. It was seven percent of the population. We are sorry for the error.