6 minute read

The Oklahoma City Council met for the fourth and final time Tuesday to hear proposals for a MAPS 4 package that could go before voters in December.

Mental Health care and crisis center, a multi-purpose outdoor stadium, and improvements to the area surrounding the OU Health Science Center were the featured presentations. As with meeting number three, the council stayed until after 5 p.m.

MAPS 4 Mental Health

County Commissioner Carrie Blumert brought a presentation about a proposed “Restoration Center” and additional crisis centers.

Blumert led a town hall session on the ideas July 29.

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She described the Restoration Center as a place where a person experiencing a mental health crisis could be brought instead of being taken to jail.

The proposed center would include 16 crisis beds, the maximum allowed by federal law. It would also include a detoxification unit, a methamphetamine-specific detoxification unit, an urgent care clinic, a pharmacy, a mobile crisis response team, and 24 hour services for people experiencing mental illness.

MAPS 4
Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrie Blumert leads off the presentation made by several speakers to use some MAPS 4 money to develop a more robust mental health system in the metro. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

Another component of the proposal would be to create more crisis centers.

Currently Oklahoma City has two crisis centers, totalling 32 beds for people experiencing a mental health crisis. The longer it takes to try to find a crisis bed for someone, the more likely it becomes that the person will end up in jail as the situation escalates. The proposal would add two more crisis centers.

The final component of the proposal is single-site transitional supportive housing for people being discharged from a crisis center. These sites would offer wrap-around services so that people have time to stabilize and work on a longer-term housing plan.

The total investment requested was $42 million. The operating expenses are expected to be $19.2 million.

Multipurpose Stadium

Bob Funk, Jr., co-owner of the Energy Football Club, brought a presentation for a multi-purpose outdoor stadium for soccer and other events. He also brought over one hundred fans of the Energy.

Funk’s presentation focused on the growing popularity of soccer in the United States and Oklahoma City in particular. He provided the dubious statistic that a recent poll showed that 51% of metro area residents follow soccer or identify as soccer fans. If I typed this on my phone I would insert a shrug emoji.

MAPS 4 last hearing
Bob Funk, Jr., one of the owners of Energy Football Club, makes his part of their pitch to have a multi-purpose stadium that their club would use. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

Funk’s proposal included two versions of the stadium, one is expensive. But, the other is also expensive.

Option one is an 8,000 seat venue and the other is a 10,000 seat venue.

Funk made the case that investing in this stadium now could offer Oklahoma City a chance to bring in a Major League Soccer team in the future. He also said that the stadium could host other sports including, potentially, high school football championships.

The investment requested for the 8,000 seat stadium is $37-42 million. For the 10,000 seat version an estimated $68-72 million would be requested.

Innovation District

For those who don’t know, which is a lot of people in Oklahoma City, the Innovation District is the name for the area including the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center bordering on I-235 to the west, NE 4th Street to the south, NE 13th Street to the north, and Lottie to the east. Most of the innovations happening in this district are related to medical science, as you’d imagine.

Roy Williams of the Greater OKC Chamber of Commerce regaled the council with the history of MAPS and also the history of the Innovation District. The presentation was dry, but the details juicy. Not really. The details were vague.

During the presentation Williams, Katie Boren, and Cathy O’Connor of the Alliance for Economic Development each gave some insight as to the millions of dollars of economic joy that is generated by the district. The proposal is that enhancing what is there will bring even more.

MAPS 4
Supporters of several proposals and interested citizens sit in the lobby of the third floor of City Hall to watch/hear presentations on closed circuit TV. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

The proposal includes four components.

First is an “Innovation Hall” that will include co-working spaces and business incubation.

The second is the Henrietta Foster Center for Minority Business Development, a proposed center to foster and promote minority entrepreneurship.

Third, is an update and renovation for Booker T. Washington Park. The final component is connecting all of these with a system of sidewalks, bike paths, and trails making the district easily traversable.

The requested investment is $70 million with a $30 million endowment for operations.

Additional Proposals from Council

Ward 7 Councilor Nikki Nice invited Don Hayes to give a presentation for a project he would like to see. The project is to extend the Bricktown Canal to the Aquarium, a thing that does not exist.

Ward 4 Councilor Todd Stone invited a young person named Zach Tyler to bring a presentation on after-school robotics clubs and competitions. Sources tell me that the robots in question do not fight, but that the program is still somehow worthwhile.

Last Minute Kerfuffle

At the end of today’s meeting Ward 5 Councilor David Greenwell asked if the council might have a mechanism for holding accountable the non-profit organizations who had made presentations.

Greenwell said that after the presentation on homelessness he had Googled the cities referenced by the presenters and each of them still has people experiencing homelessness.

He told the council that he thinks those presenters from non-profits should come back to say what specific things they would accomplish with the money asked for even though he was frequently in the same room while those presentations were given.

Mayor Holt and Ward 6 Councilor JoBeth Hamon both expressed that they thought they had gotten those specifics during the presentations. (Disclosure: JoBeth Hamon is the wife of the author.)

Hamon defended the service providers in Oklahoma City by explaining to Greenwell that those providers are the actual experts on these matters. Greenwell agreed that he is not personally an expert.

Next Steps

Now that the Council is finished hearing the 26 hours of proposals for a possible MAPS 4 package, they will begin the work of deciding what will go on the ballot in December.

MAPS packages are approved or not as one item, making the stakes high for designing a package with something for every voter.

That sounds daunting to me. Hopefully we’re in good hands.



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