Voters Approve MAPS 3

Tuesday, December 8th 2009, 9:20 pm
By: News 9

Staff and Wire Reports

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett declared victory for the MAPS 3 proposal with 54 percent of the vote Tuesday night.

The Oklahoma County Election Board reported 40,956 votes (54.3%) for the proposal and 34,465 votes (45.7%) against with 271 of 271 precincts reporting. Precincts in Oklahoma City reported a 31 percent voter turnout rate.

Oklahoma City residents were to decide Tuesday whether they wanted to continue paying an additional one-cent sales tax that in recent years has helped transform downtown and provided a boost for local schools.

Proponents of the third Metropolitan Area Projects proposal, known as MAPS 3, say the $777 million package would sustain what they call unprecedented progress in the state's largest city. Opponents argue a recession is not the time to extend a sales tax that would pay for projects such as a new downtown convention center and park.

Earnest Bush said he voted against the MAPS 3 proposal because he thought it would benefit only a few people.

"I didn't see this particular MAPS legislation as being as universally beneficial as it should," said Bush, a 63-year-old systems programmer who also said he didn't like the idea of extending a tax in the midst of a struggling economy.

Bobby Johnson, a 57-year-old retiree, said he supported the proposal because city officials had "done a great job so far with the MAPS."

"Oklahoma has been in pretty good shape during the recession, so I don't see why we should just quit because of the recession," Johnson said. "You're talking about adding on to something we're doing already. We just need to go ahead and keep the momentum going."

Oklahoma City leaders pushed for the first MAPS plan in 1993 as the malaise from the early 1980s oil bust persisted. Approved by 53 percent of voters, it paid for the construction of a new arena in which the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder now plays, a baseball stadium and a canal that helped convert an aging warehouse district into an entertainment destination known as Bricktown.

"It's amazing to me what the city has done in last 15 years and it's best to keep it going," said 34-year-old landscape designer Leigh Love, who voted for MAPS 3.

The success of the first MAPS proposal and MAPS for Kids, approved in 2001 to improve local schools, has led city leaders to forge ahead with MAPS 3, which also would be funded by a one-cent sales tax that would last for almost eight years.

Along with the convention center and 70-acre park, the proposal calls for a downtown streetcar system, bicycle trails, sidewalks, senior centers and improvements along the Oklahoma River, which has turned into a frequent site for rowing sports.

Dawn Shelton, a stay-at-home mom who lives near downtown, said the convention center is important "because a nice new facility will draw big-time national conventions."

"It's not something a typical resident thinks about, but convention business is a big deal," said Shelton, 41. "It's a way to get people to our city, and with all the improvements we've done, they say, 'Wow, I will come back here with my family."'

Local fire and police unions criticized MAPS 3 because it did not specifically include money for public safety. Mayor Mick Cornett has since said use tax money related to MAPS 3 could be used for public safety purposes, but union officials have said that wasn't good enough.

Opposition also has come from a coalition of conservative, constitutional and citizen groups that support limited government.

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