The major question before walking into the voting booth Tuesday for the MAPS 4 vote is this: Who do you trust?
Contrary to the hyperbolic promotional pieces being run by some of our competitors and dark money ads, you will only be voting for or against a one-cent sales tax. Period.
The projects proposed are included in a promise from the Oklahoma City Council. But, you will not be voting for or against the actual projects.
So, do you trust the City Council’s promise?
Some citizens and council members wanted citizens to vote on each individual project. But, that idea was consistently swept to one side in deliberations about how to present it to Oklahoma City voters.
Some of the proposed projects are deeply humanitarian and would be difficult for any reasonable mind to oppose.
To some, other projects seem suspiciously beneficial to a small group of wealthy interests in the city. And those capital projects will bring even more upkeep and operational expenses to the yearly city budget.
The City Council could not just put all of the items into one vote. That would be too easily challenged as logrolling, the practice of making voters vote for a list of items containing undesirable projects in order to get the positive ones.
Instead, the City Council has chosen to pass a resolution promising to take action on a list of items that will not be on the ballot.
It was an amazing spectacle of citizen involvement over several days and a new high mark for city government.
That much is a big positive for the process. But, there are other aspects that draw questions.
Do you believe?
For voters in Oklahoma City limits, the real issue is whether you believe that the City Council will make good on what it has resolved, or promised to do.
It won’t be easy to come up with a quick answer if you have been watching or reading about City Council proceedings.
Since the election of three young, progressive council members recently from the core of the city, the five suburban council members have been voting as a block in ways that consistently benefit big real estate and big business interests but not those who live in the city’s core.
You may or may not think that there is anything wrong with that in and of itself.
But, several of those suburban council members have also become more militant and agressive toward those who had differing views.
Those council members have chastised and sternly talked down to citizens simply for appearing before the City Council and voicing differing views.
And the suburban block of council members, very often voting against the mayor and the three core city council members, have seemed calmly unconcerned about anyone else’s views.
Will that block of five council members run away with the process if the tax is voted in?
I want to believe that they won’t. I hope they won’t.
But, there will be nothing to stop them from evolving the projects to something else once the tax is in place.
And that is something every Oklahoma City resident should consider in their vote.
A central role of the mayor in any weak-mayor system like Oklahoma City’s is to be the promoter-in-chief. And, our Mayor David Holt is excellent and earnest in his love for and promotion of this city.
He has kept a frenetic pace promoting the upcoming MAPS 4 tax because he believes it will be best for Oklahoma City.
During Holt’s campaign for mayor, Free Press reported his saying to the Capitol Hill Civic Group that he was “not just running to be the mayor of downtown. I’m running for mayor of all of Oklahoma City.”
And, sure enough, in his actions and sentiment he has shown that he takes his own campaigning to heart.
I have seen nothing yet that would cause me to seriously question his sincerity and honesty.
And, his argument made to me early on in this process was compelling.
“If the Council does not follow through on what we say we will do, this will be the last MAPS-type project we will ever be able to do,” Holt said.
He described the promise the City Council has made as a “moral issue” the council members would be responsible for in upcoming elections.
That’s possible. But, the mayor has one vote on the City Council.
And, members of the City Council may not be as concerned about political accountability as he is.
So, if the MAPS 4 tax passes, voters in Oklahoma City must not relax and think our job is done. In fact, it will be the beginning of every citizen’s job of watching their government very closely.
Scrutiny of City Council actions by residents and the press will be the only true accountability that will be available.
And, as the editor of this publication, my commitment to you will be to watch and report very closely the decisions made by the City Council from that point forward.
Rest assured we take our watchdog role seriously as your locally-owned, independent news source committed to providing you with Oklahoma City metro news as our mission, not just a feature.
As such, Free Press will not be sidelined, ignored, bullied, or bought off.
Whether you voted for or against the measure, it will be our responsibility to alert you to what happens next whether it’s positive or negative.
No matter what your view, Tuesday will be your time to weigh in on the matter. Now, let’s go vote.
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