Monday, November 30, 2009

Top Ten Reasons to Vote YES on Dec. 8th

1. Construction jobs. MAPS 3 will invigorate the job market with thousands of quality construction jobs. Building the park, the convention center, the fairgrounds expo center, and all of the other projects will mean thousands of construction jobs. What's more is that these aren't jobs for the sake of jobs, they are laboring towards something we have identified as a community need.

2. Lay the foundation for private industry growth in OKC, where 1 in 5 jobs are government jobs. What OKC needs badly is economic diversification. This doesn't come by shirking economic development opportunities. When the opposition lies to you telling you that MAPS 3 is just "big government" keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to encourage private investment. The success of MAPS isn't measured in how nice the new facilities are but how many projects and jobs it creates. How many times have you heard people lamenting how OKC is nothing but oil and government? Let's change that. Let's continue the economic growth and economic diversification we've been going through over the last decade!

3. Embarrass the Stimulus. The Stimulus does not work because people in Washington, DC do not know what needs OKC or any town has. Even if they knew what projects the people in Pittsburgh and Minneapolis supported, here in OKC we got nothing from the Stimulus. Is there a guarantee the Stimulus will work? No, in fact precedent is way against it. Precedent is however in favor of MAPS. If you want to make a political point against government waste and pet projects, vote for MAPS. Let's prove a powerful point to Washington: special projects are best left to local leaders NOT distant politicians.

4. Take pride in OKC's top-notch amenities and facilities. Because of MAPS 1 we have an NBA team and the arena that we would later complete would become one of the best arenas in the NBA. The Bricktown Ballpark has been named baseball's best minor league stadium several years. The canal is a unique-to-OKC urban environment that we continue to build on. The downtown library, the Civic Center, so on and so forth--these are facilities that have inherent value to us. When we brag about OKC, these are the things we brag about. MAPS 3 will add a modern downtown streetcar system, one of the nation's top convention centers, a brilliant downtown park, and more. These are the things we'll be bragging about in 10-15 years.

5. A boost in downtown investment. MAPS 1 was $360 million and resulted in $5 BILLION being invested in OKC. It's much like typical investing strategy: if you're smart, you can strategically turn a small amount of money into a huge amount of money. The impact of MAPS has obviously been far greater than ever anticipated, the reason for which, is that OKC leaders didn't anticipate that urban cities would become trendier than suburbs. Current studies indicate that the spark in urban growth has just begun and that inner city markets are in fact the most promising real estate sectors, which guarantees our MAPS 3 investment will be just as successful as MAPS 1. The #1 development impetus will be the streetcar. Streetcar routes through downtown will light up with infill development and property values will soar, much like land along the Bricktown Canal has. Downtown living will become more affordable because with more development, there will be more options in housing, and each development won't have absolute control over its own market niche. It will be a consumer's market, not a developer's market.

6. Bring in more events to OKC, conventions, river events, etc. Because of MAPS 1 we have created a center city where there is always something to do. Every night there is either an NBA game, a concert, a ball game, a symphony, art showings, festivals, big speakers, rallies, regattas--you name it. Not a day goes by without events in downtown. The MAPS 3 facilities will also be geared towards adding more to that. The MAPS 3 convention center will host events, such as outdoor concerts and music festivals at the amphitheater lawn overlooking downtown. The convention center will triple our convention business. The river improvements will bring in more regattas, Olympic events, etc. The artificial white water rapids will add another element to the river scene. The expo center will help attract more serious trade shows to the Fairgrounds. The trail network will give us a safer route for marathons.

7. A healthier community. All of these MAPS 3 initiatives are designed to transform OKC from the most car-dependent, chronically-obese metro in the nation (which is statistically proven) to a healthier and more sustainable community. The streetcar will encourage people to live without cars in the center city, and by walking from place to place, downtowners will be in much better shape than suburbanites. The trails will build on what has been a good start, and will be utilized as well as the Hefner trails have been. This will give suburbanites the opportunity to be active. The park, which will be unlike any other park in Oklahoma (a true urban masterpiece), will be 'the' place for recreation in the metro. There won't be any environment like it. The senior centers will help our seniors stay active, which is important considering how the aging population is fixing to balloon. These initiatives are all vital toward making OKC a healthier community. Starting a website and subtly encouraging citizens to do their "civic duty" and lose pounds isn't cutting it!

8. Get more out of downtown aside from 'events' -- everyday attractions like the park, a more sophisticated downtown, parking made easy due to the streetcar, and so on. These projects will combine to create a more people-oriented downtown. You will be able to bring a date, bring your family, or come alone and enjoy the environment of downtown, not just the establishment you're paying a visit. What I mean is that a trip to McNellie's won't just be a trip to a cool pub, but you'll also have the "MidTown experience" alongside. Each neighborhood will be a unique experience, as each neighborhood will have an impact from MAPS 3.

9. A foundation to build on for the future. The streetcar in particular, which is to be developed alongside a multimodal transit center, is designed to be the beginning of a full-fledged mass transit system similar to what is down in Dallas. The streetcar is a practical beginner project that we'll get a lot of use out of. Once we have laid the foundation for rail transit in OKC we will be able to apply for federal funds to build a light rail system across the metro, that will enable commuters from Edmond to Norman to park (or bike) and ride to downtown or anywhere else in the metro. Why should OKC not have EVERY amenity that they have down in Dallas? Is Dallas known for being a particularly progressive place? No. OKC is a large city, the year is 2009, there is no reason why OKC should not have cutting edge infrastructure too. MAPS 3 is a foundation to build on for the future because for the first time ever, we aren't catching up. We're being proactive and getting the ball rolling on how OKC will become the next great American city.

10. Raise OKC's profile. These projects all grow OKC's economy, build up OKC's role in several industries, particularly the real estate and convention trade industries, and could possibly lead to attracting other sports franchises. It's this simple: we grow OKC, more stuff comes to OKC, more people outside of Oklahoma have heard of/are familiar with... OKC. Want to change the fact that nobody really thinks about OKC outside of Oklahoma? Vote for MAPS 3. If OKC keeps investing in itself there's no reason why we can't be the next Seattle or Dallas.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Radical public safety idea: consolidate city/county

Here's a radical idea that would do wonders for expanding the numbers of police officers and firefighters in OKC:

Consolidate the city and county.

It's that easy. Instead of trying to decimate a vital MAPS 3 initiative, why don't we separate the issues of MAPS and public safety personnel and find solutions for both? Yes to MAPS, and yes to county consolidation. County consolidation would get rid of the duplication of services that exists between city and county.

The Oklahoma County Sheriff's office routinely patrols the exact same areas that OKC and Edmond police patrol. Their biweekly late night traffic checkpoints are always in OKC city limits. Their patrol cars are always hiding from view watching traffic on highways in OKC city limits.

By consolidating the two, it would be like doubling the budget for the OKC police department. The OKC police department claims that their numbers are too low for a city of 560,000 and claim that they're "at 1993 levels" whatever that means, despite that they have never produced numbers that prove their numbers are so low.

OKC police department has 1,057 commissioned officers and over 300 civilian workers. Oklahoma County has..well it doesn't really say how many police officers they have, but on their website you CAN "meet Sheriff John Whetsel." Thank goodness for that bit of info. Just assume 1,057 or more, because if their numbers were ever lower than OKC PD you have to assume Whetsel would strong arm the county commissioners into doubling or tripling his budget and building a jail the size of the Empire State Building.

Let's go ahead and pretend that the police union isn't lying to us (stop laughing) about personnel numbers. Let's assume that they're right, that their numbers are way too low and that they're below 1993 levels, whatever that means. What they have not factored in is the utter duplication of services between OKC city police and Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office. There are actually two police forces patrolling OKC.

Let's just eliminate the duplication of services and the inefficiencies between two separate police forces, multiple police unions, several police chiefs, and disunity in mission. Give the OKC police department the numbers they want. Consolidate the county and city and increase public safety efficiency AND save money at the same time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

MAPS 3 video

This is the best I've been able to find for the Yes MAPS 3 videos..keep looking for the 30 second ads on TV, which are pretty good. When I find 'em I'll post 'em, but here's all I've found on YouTube so far.

Why should I support MAPS?

A good question was posed in a comment that I hadn't responded to until now. I saw the comment two days ago and thought it as a great subject to cover in a whole post, so that's why I waited till now to respond. In all honesty, I don't think the subject has been addressed: say you're a suburb person who's still undecided, a family man who has had trouble utilizing downtown fully (i.e., Bricktown isn't the most 'family friendly' place), who prefers to shop in Yukon and Quail Springs, how does MAPS benefit YOU -- why should YOU vote yes on Dec. 8th?

That is a good question.

While I can come up with a few creative ways to utilize MAPS, some that are probably semantics (like Steve alludes to the pay-to-park areas of Bricktown, when I've never paid for parking in Bricktown in my life), the best reason why such a person's MAPS support is needed is because of what it does for the overall city. Even if someone had might as well live in Edmond or Moore city limits, they should support MAPS for the impact that it has on the entire OKC metropolitan area.

Outlying areas of OKC stand to gain from MAPS in two ways: the quality of life amenities are available to anyone in Central Oklahoma, and the economic impact is enjoyed by everyone in Central Oklahoma. Even if you aren't going to NBA games, attending the symphony, or catching ball games at the Brick, chances are a lot of people in your community are. So the quality of life impact is still in your community, and there are people in your community who will still have the opportunity to take advantage of those things.

Furthermore, the entire metro area was suffering when OKC was a place "nobody would want to live in." Now that OKC is a desirable metro to live in, the entire Central Oklahoma region benefits from economic expansion. A lot of the economic expansion that's resulted from OKC's raised profile has occurred in the suburbs. While none of these projects are included in the $5 billion economic impact of the $360 million MAPS 1 package (which only includes private investment downtown directly linked to MAPS), they are still a result of economic development initiatives such as MAPS 1. Think of all of the major employers that are now up on Memorial Road, or think of all of the new private sector jobs down by Tinker, or new companies that have set up in Edmond or Norman.

Will MAPS 3 actually raise the bar for the metro-wide economy? Undoubtedly. The overall focus of MAPS is cumulative, and the projects support each other, so that pet project bickering doesn't defeat any one proposal. Some of the projects, the ones that citizens don't always see themselves using the most, are probably the ones that will actually benefit the economy the most. So in other words, if you're someone who just doesn't come downtown that much, there are still projects that resemble your tax dollars hard at work for you that are benefiting you without having to come downtown. The convention center is the #1 such item. The convention center will be bringing business people to OKC, having them spend dollars generated in another city here in this city, raise OKC's profile in the business world (which will have intangible value), and by having such a state-of-the-art corporate amenity in downtown, it will help us attract more corporations to more their HQs to Oklahoma. More importantly, it will provide resources to help grow Oklahoma-based companies.

Repudiating government
Steve brings up another excellent point: "But now in these tougher economic times where the federal government wants to take more such as forced health insurance with large tax increases- and I really can't do much about it because far left Dems are in charge - I feel this is something I can say no to. It's not "fair" but it's the environment MAPS3 is in."

I like to think of the different levels of government as being fairly separate, and while the federal government apparently can absolutely ignore the people in a state like Oklahoma, there are governments that can not. State, county, and city governments don't have the same aptitude for criticizing, ignoring, and offending Oklahoma values, because they actually answer to our values (and economic development has traditionally been a Republican priority here). MAPS 3 is Oklahoma City's response to the Stimulus, because the Stimulus did absolutely nothing for us. Maybe MAPS 3 can even be used as an example by the media to make the Stimulus look even worse, when it is enacted and actually fulfils every one of its promises: it will create direct jobs (thousands of construction jobs), it will create indirect jobs (economic expansion), it will improve quality of life, it will leave a lasting impact, it will unify a community much like the first MAPS did, and more.

All of these things it will do because the first MAPS did, all of these things the Stimulus will fall well short of and there's nothing we can do about that, unfortunately. All we can do is take charge of OKC's economy so that we are controlling our own future, so that we never sink to the level of the communities that actually are in the unfortunate predicament of relying on the federal government Stimulus (i.e., places like California and Michigan).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

MAPS' primary opposition

Most surprising to me is the turn of events that suddenly MAPS is being attacked from two different sides, taking heat from your run of the mill civic malcontents, and from the police and fire unions who see money up for grabs. Is support for MAPS strong enough to take a battering from two sides?

Every year 2/3 of the General Fund is spent on public safety, in addition to to a 3/4ths of a penny dedicated sales tax (almost the same as the penny MAPS tax) -- together these combine for about $290 million a year spent on public safety in OKC. After we passed the 3/4ths penny sales tax in the early 90s, we became one of the cities with the best-funded public safety in the nation..something we appreciated dearly on April 19, 1995. So that leads us to today, where we must ask ourselves the question, how dare we force the heroes of the Murrah bombing to take a 2% pay cut in order for MAPS 3?

Today most of those cops with beefed up patrols, brand-new equipment, shiny new cars, are being told by the union to put these "Not this MAPS" signs in their front lawns because the fire and police unions want the MAPS penny to go to them. It's union politics at its best. And as for the pay cut, a cop who has been on the force for one year makes over $40,000. Sergeants start at $54,000. Firefighters in OKC make similar salaries, and after several years on the force, make on average around $75,000 a year for a part-time job where they work 4 days out of the week (many have been known to get second jobs). And they are not required to live in the city limits of the city that pays their salary, ether.

For anyone curious about how sales tax in OKC is broken down, this is how:
State: 4.5%
City: 3.875%

2% - General Fund (Permanent)
1% - MAPS penny (Temporary)
.75% - Public Safety (Permanent)
.125% - OKC Zoo (Permanent)

Here's another even more radical concept: the MAPS penny and public safety are two completely unrelated subjects altogether. The police and fire unions, who want more money after the City wants to cut back on their 2% raises this year, are just sticking it to the city where it hurts them the most, the MAPS campaign.. unfortunately the collateral damage is the city that they are sworn to protect. The truth is that not having a 2% raise is a lot better than the rest of the city departments are getting, so public safety is lucky in all honesty. If I were Jim Couch I would actually cut their budget. Other departments are going through hiring freezes, some workers have been laid off, albeit not nearly as sharply as has happened in other cities. The fact of the matter is that municipal governments have to stay out of the red just as much as any company does, and sometimes that effects the workers.

The city government can't just get China to buy its debt like the Federal government can, but on the bright side at least China doesn't literally own Oklahoma City.

More blatantly appalling is that MAPS funds are entirely separate from the General Fund or from dedicated public safety funds, and trying to distort the issue so that tax payers will think that MAPS will somehow worsen the shortfall for public safety is bad. And it's unethical, from a public policy perspective, and I just hope OKC voters aren't stupid enough to be had by the unions. I guess when you're a union ethics just go out the window, though. How do we know for a fact that the union is just using MAPS as a bargaining chip with the city? Read this:

They say they want two things: they want their contract issues resolved, and they want the MAPS items to stand on their own for election. Which one do they really want? Probably their contract issues to be resolved so they can collect their 2% raise before the Holidays. Do they care if the MAPS items stand on their own? Probably not (unless they still want that MAPS money for themselves after they get their raise), if so, why? Why are the police and fire unions even caring to get involved in public debates over completely unrelated issues? Should we start consulting the police and fire unions on how to fund schools, roads, and other things as well? What is the official union position on gay marriage, abortion, and teaching evolution in the schools? Have the unions written an entire voter's manual telling cops and firefighters who to vote into office? The answer is that all of those questions are preposterous, just as their involvement in MAPS 3 is.

If OKC fails MAPS 3, has public safety in OKC benefited? No, it hasn't, in fact, it harms public safety. If OKC doesn't continue MAPS and sinks into a decline anywhere near as low as before MAPS, the reality is that our public safety issues just multiply. OKC should evaluate whether there are enough cops on the force, but even with that said, it's very untrue that numbers haven't increased in the last 15 years. And more, if they can't live with being one of the few forces in the nation that have a dedicated funding source, then they need to examine their budget for a change.

Also public safety would be conning their ownselves out of the $60 million in use taxes that they collect from MAPS. The use tax is the same as the MAPS tax rate, except it is applied to items brought into OKC and not bought directly in OKC, and the MAPS penny collected on use items has always gone straight to public safety.

Blackmail is the oldest trick in the book. "Pay us and nothing bad will happen. Don't pay us, well, you don't want to not pay us."

"Top 10 Reasons to Vote No"

The opposition here is getting rather incredulous. Here's some of the main points on, and I'll just refute each of these item-by-item because they're all pretty stupid.
A Tax Cut Will Stimulate Oklahoma City's Economy with $80-90 Million in Additional Sales.

Voting “NO” gives a tax cut to the citizens of Oklahoma City starting April 1, 2010. The estimated cost of extending the MAPS tax is $10 a month per person. That's $120 a year or almost $500 a year for a family of four. Most of this money will be spent with other OKC merchants for goods and services more needed by families. What would an $80-90 million increase in sales mean to local businesses? Taxpayers and local businesses need the economic stimulus of a tax cut to survive this economic recession (depression?). Ironically, sales taxes on the new private sector sales increases because of the Maps tax cut stimulus will add $3 million a year or more to needed general funds for the City! Maybe we can hire more police.
Truth: Don't buy any of this because surely no one is stupid enough to believe that by not collecting $80-90 million sales tax that all of that money will go straight back into retail stores. The Reaganomics argument that a lower rate would increase revenues by $3 million is also bogus. By not collecting the MAPS tax, economic development in OKC suffers, and more and more retail will continue to leave OKC for Moore and Edmond. Do you know anyone who spends 100% of their money shopping? If you know someone, make sure they seek help.

Sales taxes are regressive.

Proportionally, sales taxes place a heavier burden on those with lower incomes. The upper and upper middle class people pushing MAPS3 ridicule those who complain over “a few dollars a month.” While they may have to give up a couple of lattes for Maps3, a working class family may have to give up a can of Spam, baby formula or new shoes. The OKC Elite want to increase the value of their downtown properties with more taxpayer subsidies. Those who least benefit have done enough for the!
That's debatable, because a sales tax taxes consumption. If the State Legislature wanted to draft a bill exempting groceries from sales tax, similarly to what they do down in Texas, that would be great. But still, even with the Oklahoma sales tax that applies to everything, it still taxes consumption..meaning the MORE you consume, the more tax you PAY. If all you consume is a can of spam, baby formula, and new shoes, you aren't paying that much sales tax, and you're probably sales tax exempt anyway. If you consume lattes (just going off of the examples gives) then you probably pay a lot more sales tax.

New Maps Projects Will Drive the City's Operating Budgets Deeper in the Hole.

All projects are for capital expenditures, with no provision for increased operating or maintenance costs. For instance, estimated operating costs for the street car are $3.5 million and the park $3 million.Moreover, even though OKC's population has grown, police and fire protection have not kept pace. We're short 200 police officers and 50 fire fighters. The City Council has called for 2% across the board spending cuts starting January, 2010. Further cuts are likely for the following year. The projected budget shortfall for five years is $10 million.
The problem with this argument is that it features two faulty implications: 1, that the city should stop adding facilities in general because they all come with operating budgets; and 2, that these amenities would be gigantic money drains themselves. I'm not even going to address the first one, because if someone really wants the City government to stop doing anything, that's tough to argue. But most of the original MAPS projects actually support themselves through ticket revenues for the TONS of events they host--the Bricktown Ballpark supports itself, the Ford Center easily supports itself, the Cox Convention Center supports itself, the Fairgrounds support themselves, the Civic Center Music Hall supports itself, and so on. In fact probably the only two projects that don't support themselves for their upkeep are the kitschy rubber-tire trolleys, because those were just a bad idea in the first place, and the Downtown Library--but it's hard to say that you don't need a library in downtown. And then, even if OKC was having to pay for the operating costs of these facilities, it would still be overwhelmingly worthwhile. You can't put a dollar value on quality of life, and that's what those facilities give us. I appreciate having a city where on any given night there are several good events going on downtown. Let's keep that kind of momentum going, and OKC will continue to be a spot of relief in the middle of a depressed country.

Maps3 is a Slush Fund for the City Council.

The Maps3 Tax is a blank check signed by the taxpayers. The MAP3 ordinance contains NO content. Instead, it refers to an Exhibit “A” that expresses their intent. There are no priorities or numbers associated with Exhibit “A”. Source: Council Agenda for Sept. 22, 2009. Five votes on the Council can change this intent at any time. The MAP3 program is totally fluid and subject to change.
The MAPS3 ordinance is not going to change, and the projects will not change. Any deviation from the list of projects that 8 out of 9 city councilors supported would result in a loss of integrity and all 9 of them would be voted out of office, including Brian Walters. The reason that we can't do exactly what we did in MAPS1 and MAPS for Kids is because of state law, which now prevents capital projects from being voted on together, so in order to keep the MAPS ballot as similar to the original MAPS that the public overwhelmingly supports looking back, they drafted a resolution for what the penny would be spent on and then just put the penny on the ballot. It's splitting hairs, but it's just in order to keep the MAPS ballot legal.

Mick Cornett's Maps3 Numbers are as Fraudulent as Harry Reid's Obamacare Numbers.

Cornett claims Maps3 will collect $100 million a year ($777 million for 93 months). OKC's highest annual sales tax revenue for a penny of sales tax was $92.5 million, years before the financial crisis. 2009 sales tax revenues have declined for 9 months in a row. November's distribution was 12.3% less than the same month a year ago. Further, the NBA Tax (Maps for Millionaires) is falling short about $8-10 million when it expires in March, 2010. Those funds are already committed and must be made up out from the overstretched general fund. This is a primary reason for the 2% budget cut.

Who cares about Harry Reid? Seriously, if someone has probably never even been to Oklahoma, why mention it in this debate? That's the most retarded thing I've ever seen. Harry Reid has nothing to do with MAPS. That's a Nancy Pelosi thing to say, what were you inspired by the Obama spirit to say that? Go back to California with that kind of talk. On the sales tax figures themselves, it's not true that the Big League City coming in short is the cause for the 2% budget cut. First of all, the collections did come in short, but that was practically a nonfactor because the practice facility bid that was selected was $10 million--when $20 million was budgeted. Second of all and most important, the reason for the proposed cuts are two-fold: firefighters make, on average, $78,000 a year for a part-time job (work 4 days out of the week) and get ridiculous overtime compensation, which is a luxury that OKC can't afford to keep paying the heroes of the Murrah Bombing during a recession. The reason we can't keep paying those kinds of wages during the recession is..and here's a really radical thought..because OKC isn't collecting as much sales tax as we were two years ago. This is partly due to the recession, but not so much as it is due to the fact that our retail is MOVING to Edmond and Moore. The city took a big hit when everything left Crossroads Mall a year ago, and H.B. 1804 (the immigration bill) also hurt the inner south side, and there are a lot of stores on the south side that have had to close because their business fled the state in fear of being deported. So for those reasons, we aren't collecting as much retail tax as we were 2 years ago, and that's definitely added incentive to PASS the MAPS3 initiative so that we can build up downtown retail that DOES compete with all the malls out in the suburbs.

The Most Popular Projects are Being Used to Sell the Least Popular.

In a poll sponsored by the Oklahoma Gazette and News 9, the most support was for the least expensive projects – outdoor facilities and sidewalks. The least support was for the most expensive project, a new convention center to replace the renovated Cox Center.
That's the way MAPS works, and the reason it has been so incredibly successful. Instead of a tangled web of special interests, MAPS is important because it gives the city a unified approach to civic improvement. Instead of an approach that gets people fighting over money and saying "no to anything other than my project" it creates the opportunity for "yes to all" and the entire city moves forward. If not for MAPS, then the city would not be unified. Downtown interests would be fighting Fairgrounds interests, who would be fighting welfare interests, who would be fighting education interests, and so on. This provides a win-win alternative to that kind of divisive bickering.

The Smaller Projects Will Be Cut First.
When projects need to be cut back, it will be the smaller, more popular projects that are cut back or eliminated first. Realistically, the larger projects cannot be shaved significantly without jeopardizing the entire project. How do you pare down a $280 million convention center or a $22 million a mile streetcar system? Moreover, the largest projects will have far more special interest favor than things like trails and sidewalks.
No projects are going to be cut. In the unlikely event that the MAPS tax falls short (it hasn't fallen short in a long time) instead of cutting projects the citizens may be asked to extend the tax for another 3 or 4 months in such an unlikely event. If the citizens turn down such a request, then we're probably going to have to cut projects, but that would be the will of the people. MAPS3 is unique in its planning because this includes a $17 million contingency fund in case more money is needed, and if it's not needed, then the contingency fund will be put into the general fund. Oh, and the streetcar is not $22 million a mile. The funding proposal is for $120 million, which will likely include 5-6 miles of streetcar, as well as an intermodal transit center (to tie all the modes of transit together) and possibly a commuter link from Bricktown to the Tinker AFB/Midwest City area. You do the math on how much per mile that is.

A “Temporary” Tax Needs to Expire.

If it doesn't expire, it is not temporary. When special interests speak of “keeping the momentum alive,” they really mean “let's not let the tax expire; we might not get it back.” The OKC Elite intend to keep extending the Maps Tax forever!

The tax is temporary because each time there is a proposal, the citizens vote on it, and the tax is then extended for a definite period of time until those goals are met. The tax is not arbitrarily being extended without citizen approval each time.

The Economy Continues to Slow. More Taxes Will Make It Worse!

The economic statistics are bleak and getting worse. Nationally foreclosures, bankruptcies and unemployment continue to worsen. At the state level, Oklahoma faces a $1 billion shortfall for next year. Oklahoma City is not immune. A recent report from OSU expects little or no growth in 2010 and more job losses in a “jobless recovery.” Taking more money out of the pockets of citizens to fund projects for the OKC Elite is the wrong thing to do at the wrong time.Oklahoma's unemployment is up to 7.2%. Taxpayers need a break! Oklahoma City needs the boost in spending from a tax cut. We don't need more taxes!
The unemployment rate in Michigan is 15.1% (as of October 2009) so I would say Oklahoma is doing pretty well. I would also argue that the bleak economic picture outside of Oklahoma in indisputable proof of what happens in communities that don't invest in economic development. Now is more than ever the time to invest in economic development, not just so that Oklahoma exits the recession poised for record growth, but also to prevent Oklahoma from slipping. The reason Forbes named us the most recession-proof city, Money named us the best city to start a business, and tons of other excellent rankings recently, is because we've invested in ourselves with economic devevelopment. Without MAPS and without the economic development we've focused on during the last 15 years, OKC would be at the bottom of the heap, which is exactly where we were in 1990 when companies were refusing to come to Oklahoma because they couldn't see why anyone would want to live here. OKC can't compete with other cities in terms of size, culture, or especially educational attainment, so that puts us at a disadvantage right off the bat--in order to Oklahoma to compete with other communities for jobs and development we have to do exceptionally well in other categories, particularly quality of life. By making drastic improvements in quality of life, OKC has made up for its deficiencies in other areas and risen to the status of a major player.

A New Convention Center Will Not Spur Economic Growth and Recovery. That's Magical Thinking!

First, the proposed $280 million is just little more than half of the projected total costs. Consultants estimate another $250 million will be needed to “finish” the convention center complex.
To "finish" the convention center complex, meaning a completely separate expansion to a facility that will already be huge, then yeah. That's a good thing because it shows that we're investing in a facility that we'll be able to use for a very long time, and that we won't have to abandon it due to it not being big enough or having room to expand like the Cox. The idea here is that this is the situation with the Cox, so let's get out of that situation and plan for the future so that we aren't in this expensive situation again with the convention center. It's called planning for the future, something that economic development opponents don't grasp. The reason we need the convention center is because convention centers are basic amenities that corporate America relies on. No corporation is going to relocate or expand in a city without a good convention center, so it's not just about the conventions themselves (that's a very short-sighted way of looking at it). But that's not to say that the conventions themselves aren't a very good thing either, because they are. Any study that downplays the convention center impact isn't completely taking into account the fact that dollars generated in another city are being spent/deposited/invested in YOUR city. That's pretty big. And then another intangible benefit of investing in a convention center is the exposure that it would mean for OKC. It puts us on a list of "Big League Cities" for business, to think of it in terms of majors and minors. For years OKC has been in the minor league of business, and in order to grow into a bigger, more prosperous, and healthier community, OKC will need to enter the majors. That's what this is about. If you aren't doing business, competing for business, attracting business, then you aren't taking care of your citizens. Your citizens are falling short in their potential and in their quality of life. That's why the convention center is needed.

Friday, November 20, 2009

MAPS 3 opposition

MAPS 3 sales tax will cost about $930 for the average OKC resident. About $10 per month for this 93-month project. (Based on an economic analysis conducted by Dr. Mark Snead, OSU, for the Oklahoma City Finance Department).

Mayor Cornett asked OKC residents what they wanted: They said: Transit (light rail, streetcars, etc.) and Infrastructure, including streets. See results on website:

What we’re getting!
OKC’s 3rd convention center (in addition to Cox Convention Center and the Ford Center)
70-acre park downtown. Why? A request by Devon Energy.
Irresponsible destruction of the Union Station Rail Yard---After ignoring thousands of requests to save OKC’s Union Station rail yard from destruction, the OKC Council is asking for our MAPS 3 sales tax money for “a downtown transit hub which will link streetcar, commuter rail and bus systems” – exactly the reason Union Station’s invaluable, irreplaceable rail yard was built in the first place.

Citizen Patriots, P.O. Box 19863, OKC 73144

Notice any glaring misinformation?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chesapeake tears down first office

Chopt Square: The building where, for Chespeake Energy, it all began. This building, the original office building on the Chesapeake campus, is now tumbling down as Chespeake's ever-evolving campus construction plans have said it has to go. It's replacement will be a park that features a soccer field for recreation..the park is dubbed 'Central Park,' which hopefully means that name is taken when it comes time to name a MAPS 3 park (seriously).

Similarly to a new hot rod, it's what's underneath that matters most. Underneath this soccer field will be an underground, 3-level, 380-car garage at the heart of the Chesapeake campus where parking is most dire.

Chesapeake, according to the article in the Daily Oklahoman, is now up to 3,300 employees at their Nichols Hills headquarters campus. The rapid construction of their corporate campus has been a hot-button issue in Nichols Hills for the last 3-4 years. Generally speaking, we first find out about another Chesapeake project when the construction crew arrives on site, or in this case, when the existing building comes tumbling down.

And apparently--Chesapeake doesn't shy away from tearing down the building where the corporation began, which is no surprise to anyone whose seen the large chunk of Nichols Hills and North Oklahoma City that Chesapeake has gobbled up.

Devon skyline views

With Devon well under way, and anticipation pent up for completion of the 850 foot tall tower in 3 years, a lot of people have done mockups of what Devon will look like in the skyline. The best I have seen come from Shane Hampton over at

One series uses Google Earth, and the other series just photoshops it into a photograph taken from Fair Park.

From Fair Park:


From Google Earth:
From St. Anthony's

From North Broadway

From the Oklahoma Health Center

From the Bricktown Ballpark

Of course I think for the Google Earth renderings, that the tower might be too slender.. it will actually have a larger footprint than the Oklahoma Tower, whereas in many of the Google Earth images it appeared as if the Oklahoma Tower had a lot more girth. So these are off a little bit, but it's still an interesting illustration. For full size pics check out Shane's blog at rezoneOKC, as well as his in-progress development charts.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bring on a new game changer

Game changers enter the picture and come downtown every other month now it seems, which is great considering the recession. MAPS 3 one month, Myriad Gardens renovation plans come out the next month, Devon breaks ground the next month, fast forward, and now we have a new potential game changer. And even though it seems like not long ago OCU had finished the Sarkeys Law Center, Fred Jones Hall just recently announced that his family's downtown building, the old Fred Jones plant, will soon become the new OCU Law School--which will be a $30-50 million renovation project.

Downtown has long been a montage with doctors on the east, and lawyers on the west. I would say a majority of Oklahoma City attorneys office on the west side of downtown due to its proximity to the County Jail and the old Courthouse, not to mention other attorneys and various legal services. Now OCU announced they're looking to get their law school in the fray of things, and they've gotten more certain about it with one added caveat: IF MAPS 3 passes.

So now MAPS 3 has to pass, and it's already gained what I like to call "an impact guarantee." When people pass public initiatives they like to be able to look back and say that it's had impact. We look back on the original MAPS and say it had a $5 billion impact on downtown. We'd like to be able to look back on MAPS 3 and say it had a similarly huge impact on downtown, which it will. But we can do one better--now we have groups promising to move downtown if MAPS 3 passes, so we can anticipate exactly what some of that impact will be: OCU Law moving downtown, into the old Fred Jones plant--a building I've always been fond of.

And then the reason that OCU Law could be a potential game changer is what it adds to a growing education sector that's downtown. Between the ACM@UCO and OCU Law, downtown will have at least 2,000 college students. With that should come housing that students can afford, restaurants and coffee shops students will want, and more. Also should downtown pass a threshold of 2,000 students, it's likely that other schools might be attracted to move into downtown. It also ruled out the Fred Jones plant as the future home for the ACM, which will have to look at expanding somewhere else.

Add into the mix all of the medical students at the OU Health Sciences Center in the Oklahoma Health Center just east of downtown and the picture starts to get big. Graduate students will be a very big part of downtown's future, and the OUHSC is still growing rapidly as well. The mix is diverse, and big. The possibilities are varied. In downtown Indianapolis there's a large college consortium shared by Indiana University and Purdue University--the two big state schools in Indiana. The IUPUI campus (Indiana-Purdue Indianapolis) itself has 22,000 undergrad students, 30,000 including grad students, and a $600 million endowment separate from IU or Purdue. To illustrate the impact IUPUI has had on downtown Indy, they recently just finished a $1 billion building campaign. I know OKC leaders have spent a lot of time in Indy studying what they've done with sports and the convention industry, but they should look at what they've doen with higher education as well.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cityshot XXIII

View of downtown OKC from Hudson and N. 10th

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New loft project on Walker Ave/MidTown

Great new loft project soon to be underway on Walker, across from the MidTown Deli. It's just a stone's throw to the north and across the street from the Plaza Court, which since being completely renovated, has become the epicenter of life in the MidTown area. This project, between the Walker/Tenth traffic circle and 12th, was called Heritage Lofts and now's been redesigned and redubbed 12 12 (address is 1212 N. Walker). Have to say that the redesign was an incredible job. The prominent balconies completely redefine the relationships the building has and how the facade interacts with the onlooker. Much more inviting, not to mention modern.

12 12 will soon be underway, with developers hoping to be doing leasing next summer. It will have 21 contemporary apartments, all either 1 or 2 bedrooms--reaching an underserved market looking for stylish, small, reasonably-priced alternatives in the downtown area. Along Walker will be 4,000 sf of street-level retail, to be filled with a coffee shop and a cafe or tenants similar to the Walker Shops or Plaza Court across the street.

With the Packard Building still progressing (inside was gutted, they put new windows on it last time I was in OKC, and I presume they're finishing the interior) and work supposedly (according to Steve's response to a post where I was critical of MidTown progress) is about to begin on the Osler Lofts as well. If all of that holds true then MidTown is still a pretty hot area for development after all. And yeah, I'm in a very optimistic mood at the moment. Seeing the 12 12 project will do that to ya. It's great to see the MidTown Renaissance guys still moving forward in this economy. Hopefully, and undoubtedly, it will pay back dividends as OKC's downtown market continues to buck the national trend, and especially as the economy recovers.

Calgary: Urban and Suburban

If I haven't mentioned lately how strongly I feel about Calgary being "God's Country" let me go ahead and say that now. Man I love it here. And for the record, even though I might put up some pics I've taken around Calgary lately, this pic was shot by SurrealPlaces on SSP. I just think it really shows the vastness of the Calgary skyline looming in the distance of some nice topography.

Even though the urbanites here in Calgary have a strong dislike of the suburban sprawl that has been occurring here, I just keep reminding them how much worse it could be. Calgary still has a huge downtown population, and is adding thousands each year. The entire metro is pretty accessible with a great highway network and great LRT (c-Train) access. This is something that OKC could easily become in 20-30 years if it invests in all the right infrastructure.