“I didn’t expect to win,” Ward 6 Oklahoma City Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon told Free Press at the end of Tuesday’s Council meeting.
She had just argued against an economic development deal in the works for the past year to bring one of the top defense contractors to one of downtown’s office buildings.
It is one among many incentive deals the city has worked over the last several decades and has become almost routine.
In a joint economic development agreement between Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. and the Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust, the city agrees to pay the firm $250,000 in incentives once they have created 130 “new quality jobs” over the next three years.
The firm is among the top military contractors in the U.S.
Hamon did lose the vote. But, she was not the lone vote against it. Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice and Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper also voted against the measure.
Hamon argued for spending the money on helping veterans who are a significant part of Oklahoma City’s homeless population.
She described the $250,000 incentive to one of the top five military contractors in the nation as a “drop in the bucket.”
“But, to our city and to the veterans that are experiencing homelessness, this can be a huge boon to what we can offer them,” Hamon argued.
After the meeting, Hamon told us a little more of her reasoning.
“Part of my argument is that we look at these economic development deals and we look at it as a spreadsheet, when the reverberations of what the economic impact actually is, to me, a much larger conversation,” she said.
“And, I think that partially comes from working in social services but also just thinking sociologically, right? We think of economics as this spreadsheet when really it is a social science.”
It was a tough side to take in that particular argument, in this particular city.
Oklahoma City has had a symbiotic relationship with the military and military contractors since the early 1940s when city leaders lured Douglas Aircraft and the Army Air Corps, now the Air Force, to build a huge plant and base in an open area southeast of what was the existing city at the time.
We know it today as Tinker Air Force Base.
Two whole cities grew up around the economy of the base, first Midwest City and then Del City contributing to the region becoming a metropolis of several large cities intermingling economies with that of Oklahoma City.