5 minute read

In spite of what is being said and written, the MAPS 4 vote December 10 is only about whether to establish a tax and nothing more.

The 16 projects being listed in promotions are promised by the Oklahoma City Council to be pursued if the measure passes, but they are not going to be a part of the vote in December.

So says the Oklahoma Supreme Court in its recent ruling on former OKC Council member Ed Shadid’s petition that questioned the constitutionality of the measure.

And, the Council is not legally bound to carry out the projects although they unanimously passed a resolution of intent that they would.

Supreme Court opinion

The Opinion of the Court dismisses Shadid’s claim that the measure is logrolling, a legislative tactic that rolls together an unpopular item with a popular item to get a vote. Instead, Oklahoma’s Constitution calls for a single subject on issues being presented to the people for a vote.

“We need not analyze the germaneness of the projects listed in the Resolution of Intent because the Ordinance itself, the actual proposed law which will be put to a vote, does not list any of these projects,” read the opinion.

And the Court goes on to acknowledge the reality of the actual MAPS 4 proposal that will go before voters before years end:

“The Respondent asserts the Resolution of Intent merely proposes a wish list of projects the City Council hopes to accomplish with the excise tax.”

The 16 projects being heavily promoted will be the responsibility of the City of Oklahoma City Council later to shape and put into place if the measure passes.

And the closest thing to a solid idea of how the money will be spent is the Resolution of Intent (see below) passed in September that listed all of the proposals pitched earlier to the Council in a record-setting, unprecedented series of hearings.

Free Press covered the intense discussions and hearings this summer.

In previous MAPS initiatives, City Council members, the mayor, and downtown power brokers have decided what projects would be promised to the people of Oklahoma City.

Moral, political issue

Essentially, there is no guarantee that the Council will spend the tax money on what is being promoted at the present except for their concern about keeping their word to the public.

In response to that observation Thursday, Mayor David Holt told Free Press that essentially, the Council following through with its promise in the Resolution of Intent is a “moral issue” and not a legal one.

He also acknowledged that it’s a political issue, too.

“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.

When we asked the Mayor earlier in the week in a text message to respond to those who are saying that MAPS 4 is just giving the City Council a blank check, Holt wrote:

The Council has voted unanimously to go on the record with its intended uses for the proceeds raised by the proposed tax extension. Furthermore, the Council did so in a detailed 10-page resolution, providing far more accountability than similar past initiatives like “MAPS 3” and “Better Streets, Safer City”. The City has used this process on several occasions over the history of MAPS and has always kept its promise to build exactly what it said it was going to build. The track record speaks for itself.

If the tax passes, the plan for spending the money is the same as in past MAPS votes. A volunteer citizen advisory board will make recommendations to the Council for a final vote as MAPS 4 money is built up.

Reservations

Even some who support the humanitarian and community service projects in the MAPS 4 resolution still have reservations.

Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamons wishes the Council had allowed voters to vote on each one of the projects separately, which could have still met the single-issue rule of Oklahoma’s Constitution.

In a text message, we asked for her views on the MAPS 4 vote to come.

MAPS 4 Package
Ward 6 Council member JoBeth Hamon poses questions about the values shown in parts of the MAPS 4 package Aug. 27, 2019. (file) Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

“I can understand why the original crafters of MAPS built the idea the way we’ve done it given the long history of OKC voting down certain bond issues, like parks,” Hamons wrote.

“So, while I do fear that the items that I’m passionate about would be at risk of being voted down if they were separate, it would feel like a more honest way to present the items to the voters.”

She also said that to continue to build large capital projects without a mechanism to keep paying for their operation in the future is problematic.

“My hope is that this will be the last MAPS in this format,” wrote Hamons.

“Endlessly building projects w/o committed operating money is something that the current Council is struggling with (the Riversports being a prime example) and my hope is that we can move the MAPS tax to operating to help support the city budget to adequately fund what we’ve built.”

The projects

The following are the projects presented this summer in the hearings. Each is a link to the City of Oklahoma City website page with more information on the project.

Council members

To find who your City Council member is, go to this PAGE on the City’s website.


Sustain our journalism by becoming a supporter

Oklahoma City Free Press is dedicated to providing high quality journalism that positively impacts our community. Click this link or the red button below to support our mission.

 

M4resolution